Apart from the absence of an arts policy to direct activities in the industry, Malawi also needs more curators to develop the arts industry.
Curators are more or less arts managers who are conversant with running arts affairs especially structures which include galleries and museums which house different art works.
At present there is little which is happening on the ground, although the country has some galleries that are run privately and not by the government as is the case in other countries.
Visual artists in the country are failing to expose themselves because of lack of curators who can manage them, identify their work and connect them to the international market.
Renowned artist Elson Kambalu, who is also a curator and runs La Galleria in Lilongwe which exhibits several art works, notes that curators play a very crucial role as they know the in-and-outs of arts.
"I am not trying to be perfect or boast in the game but other than myself, there are completely no art curators in the country. The problem is deep and it stems from lack of an art foundation hence it is a dry land for activities," he said.
Recently the artist took the government to task for its failure to preserve some of the country's historical structures citing the first District Commissioner's office in Lilongwe, which was built in 1941 but now lies in ruins.
Although the work of demolition was stopped following his complaint, nothing of substance has happened and the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture is yet to refurbish the structure.
"There are no art schools both at primary and secondary levels meaning we have no human capacity for such endeavours like curatorship. No advancement in art subjects means we have fewer people who have the balance to judge what is good in art from the bad," said Kambalu.
He added that lack of human personnel who have ever studied art means an automatic deficiency in such faculties.
"We do not have many art critics or 'scouts' meaning the artists are evolving all by themselves without managers, in this case, curators. No artistic human capacity in policy making positions means there is no advocacy for conditions to favour the artist, lack of art education in the country means we have failed to develop art managers who can greatly assist in the development of an artist," he said.
Kambalu also said lack of art education has led to a lack of an audience that can truly appreciate the arts because they do not have the historical and critical element.
"It might not be visual artists but even in these other categories, many artists only use their inborn talent and much as that is needed, they need to be guided. We need art education. For example, how can a
musician develop without a vocal coach, a choreographer or a music teacher? How can a visual artist develop if the country has no curators – some professionals to connect them to the world out there? he observed.
Currently University of Malawi is the only pioneer in the teaching of arts but some artists noted recently during a show in Blantyre that there was little which was coming out from the graduates who end up going for other jobs.
The way forward?
Kambalu said the government should strive towards ensuring that there is a cultural policy in as soon as possible. He said this "will definitely imply that arts and cultural projects are funded."
He added: "Setting up of an Arts Council will bring focus to the arts, leading to their developments.
A deliberate introduction of art education in schools would boost interest, and subsequently increase numbers of Malawian citizens plying in the arts: curators, artists, music producers, an introduction of art education in teachers training colleges to equip a group of teachers with skills to impart the knowledge in their respective schools."
Kambalu said the government should put a policy in place that stipulates that every new government building should be displaying Malawian artists' work and that there should also be highlights of artists work in Malawi in their tourism package and that at the same time searching for opportunities and in return communicate with the artists on what they should do, to take part.
He said there should be a donor related interventions in which Western governments send their artists to Malawi to impart art knowledge to students, or artists already in the trade and that there should be scholarships, sending students or people with great interest, to respective countries for art studies.
Kambalu who has been hosting several exhibitions, bringing together artists and training up-and-coming artists at his gallery said the private sector should take time to fund arts events the way they do with sports and contribute to the building of art galleries and museums as well as procuring art from artists and organising cultural shows as a way of promoting artists.