Malawian artists fear Bt Cultural Centre may turn into ruins

There is growing uncertainty over the future of the Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) as the country’s arts bodies fear the place might turn into ruins.

The rehabilitation exercise is yet to start at the centre following the bad news that the budgeted money went missing at the treasury.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, money amounting to K200 million were ‘wrong coded’.

Spokesperson of the ministry Chrissy Chiumia was quoted saying: “We spent over K300 million to acquire the centre. The centre was vandalised and other resources were allocated to rehabilitate it. But we have not accessed that money because it was wrongly coded in the system.

Arts bodies in the country fear that BCC could be idle for several years.  Artists also fear that political and government transitions may have a direct bearing on the facility.

“We are anxious that the once mighty entertainment hub may take years without being refurbished following government’s delays and excuses,” said Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam) president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango.

He said the country’s artists were losing hope that the BCC will be rehabilitated sooner, arguing there seems to be lack of political will.

“Looking at the way issues of arts and culture are treated in our country, it gives us an impression that BCC may even take time before it is renovated. But our fear is that such an elegant place may be turn into ruins if we continue at this pace,” said Mhango.

He suggested that BCC be handed over to other competent institutions that can run it if things come to the worst because entertainment industry was suffering.

“The alternative could be asking other institutions that can ably run the facility to come in and help government. I believe arts bodies may also be interested to run this facility. But to let it turn into ruins is unfair,” said Mhango.

Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Tsambalikangwa Mvona said government could lose a big cultural treasure if restoration of BCC is delayed.

“Big plans and priorities fade with time. BCC is where most cultural activities take place, poetry, drama, music performances, meetings, you name it. But negligence may cost us a lot because once years pass without refurbishing the centre, it will be forgotten,” said Mvona.

He wondered why there is no political will towards the country’s industry yet artists form an integral part of politics.

“It baffles me to see the arts being neglected yet artists contribute a lot to the country’s politics. For example, they uphold culture through their artistic creations, which also contributes to the social and economic growth,” said Mvona.

The government showed its massive support for the country’s culture and arts by purchasing the BCC from the French government. However, delays in negotiating the deal led to massive vandalism of the facility and materials worth millions of kwacha.

The situation of BCC is worsening each passing day with the roof of the amphitheatre being worn out. This condition also happened to be one of the reasons which forced the organisers of this year’s Urban Music Party (UMP) festival to build their own classy stage behind the amphitheatre in order to suite their annual event.


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