‘Craft in the Park’ exhibition promoting art, culture, environmental sustainability

BY PRISCILLA BEN - Lilongwe, Malawi (26/07/2023): Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) organised an arts and culture exhibition event themed ‘Craft in the Park” aimed at bringing local artists together; offering them a podium to display and market best of Malawi’s art and craft, in the same vein, promote culture, environmental sustainability and economic growth.

WESM Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Temwanani Kalulu says the exhibition opens doors for local artisans to showcase their talents, at the same time, market their products which are largely made from traditionally sourced materials, but minding issues of environment protection.

“Our emphasis was put on environmental friendly products that portray and explain more about Malawian culture and traditions,” he says.

Besides showcasing talents and culture, Kalulu says the exhibition was also crafted to enhance local to local as well as local to international artists connections.

WESM also believes that conducting similar events on specified intervals can eventually turn such gatherings into reliable markets where artists can sell their products and generate income to sustain their livelihoods, let alone, helping the country’s economy, effectively contributing towards achieving Malawi 2063 Vision.

“The ‘craft in the park’ is fashioned to attract international business, build capacity of artists and help facilitate partnership among artists,” Kalulu explains.

One of the exhibitors Eve Chikabandwa from Khulubvi Cultural Heritage Trust Pottery, describes the event as an opportunity opener in their business as they realised record breaking sales ever since the group was formed.

“We are even now receiving a lot of orders, which was not the case previously,” says Chikabandwa, further explaining that their grouping which moulds clay cooking pots and other traditional household utensils is based in Nsanje, where it is difficult to attract patronage due to distance.

She explains that pottery business has been suffering due to the fact that most people nowadays prefer using plastic-made household utensils.

Concurring with Chikabandwa, Milepa Arts Managing Director, Yamani Kagonegone says the event has opened new international business doors.

“We are now exporting cane and bamboo-made food baskets, chairs, marts, washing baskets and many other traditional craft products to South Africa, Tanzania among other countries,” Kagonegone explains.

During the function artists also highlighted several challenges related to their trade, among them, lack of enough information regarding markets as well as platforms that can help promote their products.

Lack of art products’ authentication was also singled out as another challenge that is threatening Malawi’s arts and culture industry as the market is flooded with counterfeits, a situation which prevent artists from enjoying fully the fruits of their talent.

There was a call for Malawians to start appreciating their cultural heritage and join in the promotion of local artisans’ products in order to awake the economic vibrancy that sleeps in the arts and culture industry.

“We must be the first in embracing and patronizing the skills of our people, appreciating their unique artistry and urging them to adopt the spirit of partnership among fellow artists of like mindedness, doing things together to address problems encountered on the market to achieve common goal,” says Kalulu.

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