Blantyre French Culture Centre: Paying sins of delay and negligence

Published on : 21/01/2015
Source : http://timesmediamw.com/french-culture-centre-paying-sins-of-delay-and-negligence/ 16 January 2015

Blantyre Cultural Centre, formerly French Cultural Centre, is a venue that was highly appreciated by artists; it was all active season in, season out. But today it is in a sorry state.

In the past years, every weekend the once mighty entertainment Mecca, which on Monday saw part of its wall collapse due to prolonged heavy rains in the commercial city, was holding different activities from theatre to gospel concerts to festivals.

In fact part of the BCC wall was already falling having taken a bend.

The BCC was a venue which was cheaper and many artists could afford to pay for the venue. On top of that, musicians did not have to sweat to get equipment as this place had its own set.

But all that is history as the equipment was stolen when the place fell prey to looters.

Apart from being a venue where French lessons also took centre stage, it was also a place where artists used to meet, drama groups used to rehearse their plays and visual artists gathered to share ideas on their artworks.

This is one of the few venues which has hosted top artists as well as theatre performances by theatre maestro late Du Chisiza Jr and theatre darling late Gertrude Webster Kamkwatira.

It is a venue which was built with a purpose and actually the father and founder of the Malawi nation, late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was expected to open the centre in 1973 but due to other commitments, which came up at the eleventh hour, he decided to delegate the then minister Gwanda Chakuamba to open it on his behalf.

Kamuzu would be a sad person today to see what state the now named BCC is in and it is not yet clear as to when it will fully be put back into shape.

But the venue could surely have not been in such a state if the government made proper arrangements with their French counter parts to protect it.

Having bought the centre at K300 million, the government could have played a faster one but they delayed their negotiations with the French government as they were told to channel the payment to France.

This was the time the country was experiencing forex shortage and it, thus, took time for them to make payment but it is also here where the government showed its lack of seriousness as they allowed the French government to hold on to the keys for the venue which was at this time intact. And, meanwhile, there was no security at the place.

If only they had played a faster one, they could not have been talking about rehabilitating the place and spend huge sums of money on a structure which was already in good condition.

But typical of government's doing things at a snail's pace, here we are moaning the state of the venue. The place now needs to be reshaped fully starting from the amphitheatre, where the grass thatched roof is being fixed and wiring has to be done.

The auditorium needs wiring and fixing of proper windows likewise the classes where French lessons were taking place and proper pipes have to be put up for water to come.

The whole process has been all delays and negligence and instead of working towards solving the problems, the government yet again delayed to open the centre despite being in a poor state.

The amphitheatre which was in good condition then could have been opened for performances and the government could have by now generated enough funds to start rehabilitating the place.

With the government not putting much emphasis on the arts, there has been no funding towards the rehabilitation of the venue and this was further made difficult with the cashgate scandal which brought about funding cuts and delays.

Now a lot of money will have to be pumped to rehabilitate the venue as so many problems are now coming up with part of the collapsing wall creating a fresh problem.

It may even take ages for the government to maintain the wall and these fears have already been raised by the artists.

The other question that has been raised is who will manage the venue once it is rehabilitated? The government has proved to be a failure to run such places and suggestions have been made by various artists that it be given to those who have the expertise in running arts activities.

Last time the government indicated that it will make consultations with various stakeholders conversant with the arts industry to map the way forward on the venue and so this is the way to go.

For now the government needs to work up from its slumber, rehabilitate this venue, and give it the freshness it deserves for it is a source of income. Actually the government will be making money every weekend with performances and since the place also has some offices which if maintained can be used for holding workshops.

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  • Gens de la Caraïbe
  • Groupe 30 Afrique
  • Alliance Française VANUATU
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