Norwegian envoy motivates Malawian artists

The Malawian creative industry seems to be roaring into life and through its inspirational artworks, is progressively securing a plot for itself in the world of arts.

Recent works by Malawian artists illustrate how the local creative minds are now getting things done, a development that has pleased a key partner in arts and cultural promotion in the country, The Royal Norwegian Government.

Through its Embassy in Malawi, Norway is assisting several rights holder associations in the country with small grants under the Cultural Support Scheme (CSS), which is administered by the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA).

MAM vice secretary Diwa Khwiliro briefs Eidhammer on the operations of their music studio

Addressing some leaders of the arts associations when he paid them a visit at the Arts House in Blantyre, the Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Asbjorn Eidhammer expressed satisfaction with the contribution his government’s support is making towards the development of arts and culture in the country.

“I am pleased to learn that our small grant is making a huge difference in building the capacity of both individual artists as well as the associations, this is what we look forward to at the end of the
day,” said the Eidhammer.

The ambassador also appreciated the rights holder associations for the various arts and cultural activities being implemented with the CSS grants, which he observed had greatly promoted and strengthened the capacity within the member associations.

However, the envoy emphasized on the need for the arts associations to develop interventions that would sustain their existence with or without external funding.

“You know grants are not for ever, they come and go as such it is better for you to reflect on ways of sustainability,” said Eidhammer who was accompanied by his wife.

The Norwegian Embassy has been assisting the associations since 2004 when the first phase of the agreement (2004-2007) was signed. Then in 2008 the Embassy extended the scheme to 2011 (second phase) following an impressive execution of the project.

The ambassador also revealed that over the next few months they will be discussing with COSOMA on the project’s extension (third phase) and it is his office’s wish to bring in more arts bodies such as CREAM! Women in Arts so that the grant benefits a broader audience.

Speaking on behalf of the associations, Journalists Union of Malawi (JUMA) President Maganizo Fly Mazeze thanked the Embassy for the continued assistance to the associations which he observed has a tremendous value to the associations.

Mazeze also hailed COSOMA secretariat and project office for the effective implementation of the scheme whose grant jumped from about K22 million in the first phase to K112 million in the just ended phase.

Initially, COSOMA applied decentralized project management system where each association handled its own funds with its own project officer before changing to a centralized system during the second phase with one project office and two project officers.

“The move {to centralise} has eased the administrative burden on our associations and has also improved the financial oversights as compared to the first phase,” said the JUMA President who has also just been elected as President of the Southern Africa Journalists Associations (SAJA).

Last year, each rights holder association received about MK4 million (disbursed in two installments) to implement its activities.

The associations include JUMA, Photographers Association of Malawi (PHOTAMA), National Theatre Association of Malawi (NTAM), Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM), Book Publishers Association of Malawi (BPAM), Visual Arts Association of Malawi (VAAM) and the Malawi Writers Union (MAWU).

In 2010, the Norwegian Government engaged independent consultants (Nordic Consulting Group) to review Norway’s support to various cultural sectors in Malawi and the Cultural Support Scheme was among the highly rated projects.

“There should be a significant increase of funds to go to the associations through the Cultural Support Scheme because it has great potential for strengthening the creative community,” reads part of the consultants’ recommendations in the review report.

Eidhammer and his wife pose for a group photo with some leaders of the associations

Ambassador (R) takes a tour of the Arts House. Photos by Thko Chikondi (PHOTAMA)

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