Malawi festival Mwezi Wawala ends on high note

Arts , theatre pundits and critics within Blantyre and beyond had superb summer time start following a successful launch of much anticipated Mwezi Wawala International Arts and Theatre festival over the weekend.

Marking its entry into the arts records for the first time, the multicultural event lived up to its billing despite the absence of some expected performers. The present cream of artists within the country and beyond boarders put up what would remain as classical display that left the audience hungry for a restage in a near future.

From poets (spoken word) through musician to dancers and theatre artists, the opulent pull of artists made the three-day event an exciting artistic feast accordingly deserving impressive turnout it managed to host.

The audience came out in its large numbers, and for a moment it was doubtful if the event hosted by Nanzikambe Arts Organization was just premiered or was in its second year running as the patronage sampled out every staged performance with keen interest and excitement, revealing how marveled it was to witness this international festival.

The Debt play in action

Day One

The festival was officially opened by Minister of Tourism, David Liwimbi on Friday August 31 who conceded the country’s failure to support arts industry, which could be one of contributors to the economy.

First to take to stage was the country’s Chichewa storyteller, Nancy Phiri who captivated the audience with her skillful narrations of stories (nthano) that revived memories of gone old days when kids would squat around a fire while listening and eagerly digesting stories told by our grand-folks.

Then it was the Ghanaian spoken word leading female artist, Crystal Tettey who did several poets which includes Africa, Cats and Anyone Can Write Poet a personal tale of x-boyfriend who once demeaned her talent.

Chavalamangwere (ethno musician)  did some of his songs using man-made instruments like Lipenga/Badza and Kalimba before Ghetto Waves Productions from Botswana staged comic but educative piece, The Debt that tackles problems emanating from global recession and currency devaluation.

The play really lived up to expectation as a breath-taking, entertaining and educating piece that talks about problem people face under chains of debt.

Agoloso fired up the hype built up by earlier performers. Then it was Tiger a one man play by Malawian Geoffrey Mbene before the evening ending up with performance by Waliko Makhala Afro-acoustic artist and after party.

Day Two

The three-day multicultural turned into frenzy and cheery on the second day as Mudzi Cultural Troupe did some traditional dances in the likes of Manganje and Beni before paving way for Dyson Gonthi with Nthano. Most scintillating performance of the day was Zimbabwe’s Mbira artist, John Mpofojane who, with his Kalimba captivated the audience into ecstasy.

Then it was for home team Nanzikambe to stage And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night, Professor Jack Mapange’s memoir. Theatre Constanz of German and Emancipation Theatre also did thier plays before Agoloso did his turn and the moment was all set for Malawian Marco Sadik straight from Kenya who sealed off the day’s performances with his music display that did not disappoint at all.

Final Day

Sunday tipped in as final day for the festival. The day had mixed package as some artists proved too good for others, but all in all, the even ended on impressive note. Warming up the day was Mudzi Cultural Troupe before Crystal Tettey excited fans with her powerful poetic performance.

Mbona Arts however, turned out to be the only disappointing act in the theatre arena as the group failed to impress with its play The Island that nearly slouched the audience into sleep, thanks for Q Malewezi who managed to bring the mood into its full swing, energetically and ably punched out several of his poets like Ukhale Chete,.

The Cameraman-a tale of white folks who take pictures of lagged African kids mobbed with flies as if that’s the only image of Africa-The Sons of Son’s risen sun, Before They that received standing ovation from the audience.

Charles Chavalamangwere also performed but top of the moment was when Zimbabwe’s Rooftop Productions staged a strictly 18 and above masterpiece, Sinners. The hour and half play by three ladies centred on prostitution. Though obvious topic but the play proved how talented were the performers who made it more fun to watch with the way they intermingled with the audience.

Mwezi Wawala pulled together a feast of artists ranging from musicians, actors, poets to dancers from countries like from German, Ghana, Kenya, Togo, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Audience Reaction

An interview with several members of the patronage expressed satisfaction with the festival.

“I really liked the event especially the incorporation of culture. This is the best way of showcasing African culture and allow people from all walks of life share their cultural experiences,” commented Owen Philips from Europe.

Another member, Priscilla Siyasiya asked the organizers to bring up another festival next year though pointed out a shortfall that needs to be addressed in the next event.

“The festival allowed families to come out and enjoy the weekend. It also allowed some of us learn and watch other performance by those came from other countries. It was really nice experience although there was a problem of time factor. Most artists did not perform as scheduled. I hope next time the organizers will look into that,” said Siyasiya.

The event was first arts festival to be held this year in Malawi attracting attention of several artistic groups from across Africa and overseas. Later this month the country is slated to have another festival, Malawi Cultural Festival (MacFest) before hosting another one Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF) early October.

Crystall Tette from Ghana performing
Agoloso acoustic performance at the Mwezi Wawala festival

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