FPA drills Malawian artists

There are a lot of skilled fine artists in Malawi, working with various media. However, the majority of them are not formally trained because there are a few institutions that provide art education. UNIMA’s Fine and Performing Arts (FPA) department is one of the few trainers of artists but unfortunately it is not accessible to many.

To fill the gap in professional skill development and reach out to many artists who cannot be enrolled in the university through the normal public university selection mode, the FPA has partnered with the Music in Africa Foundation (MIAF) and the Goethe-Institut South Africa in implementing a project called “Strengthening the Cultural and Creative Industries in Malawi Project”. This project is part of the Sound Connects Fund, implemented by MIAF and Goethe-Institut with funding from the ACP-EU Culture Programme and the Siemens Stiftung, a founding partner of the MIAF.

The Strengthening the Cultural and Creative Industries in Malawi Project is aimed at strengthening the cultural and creative industries by providing Malawian artists with skills in digital marketing and art entrepreneurship. One of the key activities for the implementation of the project is professional development training for artists. The FPA in this regard conducted the Sula Professional Development Training Workshop from 2nd to the 6th of May 2022. A total of 68 skilled artists with no previous formal art training attended the workshop. The department engaged 8 expert art educators and 8 industry experts in the training.

According to the Head of the Department Dr. Catherine Makhumula-Mtimuni, the FPA has received a double cohort funding to train artists that do Band Leadership, Sound Engineering, Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, Theatre Acting, Directing, Scriptwriting, and Theatre for Development (TFD) but they have been motivated to develop a curriculum and continue offering these short courses, including some which have been left out like cinematography, in the future starting as early as next year.

“As a department, we do not want to stop here but want to do more. It is a good thing that this is an institution of higher learning with the necessary facilities and human resource. Even if there won’t be any funding of this sort, we will still be offering these short courses to artists at a small fee,” she said.

One of the trainees, Mr. Mwayi Wiseman Kadzandira from Blantyre, said he was happy to learn new skills and could not wait to go back and teach his colleagues.

“I am working with Youth Developers Collaboration,” he said. “We have been doing TFD for about 3 years but did not have the capacity building on how TFD is done so that it is effective. After I noted this gap and saw the advertisement for Sula, I applied in order to be trained and widen my knowledge. I am now happy to admit that I have learnt a lot and I will share the knowledge with my colleagues so that we professionalize our performances. I also hope such trainings continue to take place so that more artists benefit.”

The Sula Professional Development Training Workshop culminated into an exhibition at the FPA grounds from and a performance event in the Great Hall consisting of various musical and theatrical performances. The next cohort is expected to be trained in August, 2022. Apart from the trainings, the FPA has received funding to create a creative hub that will offer incubation and provide funding for artists to further their art through establishing companies. There shall also be the establishment of a professional sound lab in Zomba where musicians and film makers will be recording their material. Lastly, the project will result in the creation of a website, www.sula.mw, where people will be able to access information about creative arts in Malawi.