Nanzikambe Arts adopting Malawian folktales for stage drama and education purposes

Nanzikambe Arts is embarking on ambitious project through which theatre lovers will have opportunity of sampling out live on stage some of the local folktales. The project is also expected to benefit primary school pupils.

Folktales have always been part of the country’s heritage although their significance diminished over the year.

With funding from Rei Foundation Limited of New Zealand, through the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, Nanzikambe Arts will pilot an Adaptation of Malawian Folktales for Stage Drama project which will help to preserve the diminishing heritage.

According to Nanzikambe Arts Managing Director, Chris Nditani the project’s goal is to ensure that Malawi’s rich cultural heritage, as presented by folktales as an arts genre, is preserved by dramatizing it for the stage and immortalizing the same on high definition videos so that tourists and local Malawians alike can easily access it and fully understand the lessons contained therein.

The project, which starts this month (August 2017) and runs for twelve months under a pilot phase, among other objectives, aims at enhancing artists’ growth in theatrical and culture-based creativity by adapting and enacting Malawian folktales for the stage; develop amongst Malawians, a better understanding and appreciation of the country’s cultural heritage through the arts and enhance the establishment of artistic partnerships across genres (story-telling, visual arts, singing and dancing and stage drama) within Malawi.

“The project also focuses on creating forums devoted to free exchange of cultural ideas through stage performances of folktale-based stories and a complementary monitoring and evaluation process; and to contribute materials towards the teaching of Malawi’s education curriculum in Creative Arts as a subject,” explained Nditani.

The project has come about after, for three years, the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, in conjunction with the Malawi National Library Service and, through collaboration with Rei Foundation Limited and Sony Corporation, collected and recorded Malawian folktales.

The folktales were collected nationwide and bear a true reflection of the rich cultural heritage that the country has.

“And so, adapting and dramatizing the folktales on stage is one way of disseminating them as this will help to contextualize the recorded folktales as an even more complete package. This is particularly important because the artistic interpretation of the folktales can be aided by a live drama performance that is further immortalized on video for posterity’s sake,” added Nditani.

Nditani said the project would contribute to the availability of teaching materials for the Creative Arts subject under the Primary School Curriculum through the audio-visual materials and scripts.

The Malawi Primary School Curriculum has a subject titled Creative Arts in which pupils are supposed to learn both traditional and contemporary creative skills. It has been noted that in spite of the presence of an enabling curriculum, there is lack of materials for teachers to use.

In 2016 Nanzikambe Arts started discussions with the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO for a possible project on adapting a few of the Malawian folktales for the stage, pre-testing them and immortalizing the same on video, resulting in this project grant.

The pilot phase of the project will act as a baseline to determine the degree of possible expansion beyond the proposed five folktales.

“This project is a value addition for other government driven initiatives such as the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and the protection and promotion of expressions of cultural diversity. It also supports the contribution of the arts to the promotion of Social Development Goal (SDG) 1 on eradication of poverty, SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, SDG 9 on industry innovation and infrastructure and SDG 16 on peace and justice.

“More importantly, it further contributes to availability materials to the education curriculum in Malawi in the teaching of Creative Art as a subject.”

The Pilot Project on Adapting Folktales as Stage Drama is expected to benefit stage drama artists, traditional dancers and drummers, directors, scriptwriters, set builders, lighting and sound technicians and audience members while those to benefit indirectly include researchers and academicians, arts organizations, teacher training colleges, schools, local Malawians, visitors and the media. The project targets some thirty thousand people as beneficiaries.

Nanzikambe Arts also benefited from the funding support of the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO in 2008, when the organization received a grant to train upcoming and seasoned artists in contemporary theatre techniques, one key result of which has been the country being awash with a cadre of dramatists and drama outfits vibrantly operating on the local scene.

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