Later this year, on 2nd November, Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art will celebrate its fortieth anniversary. Mua Mission (between Salima and Balaka / Mangochi, just off the Lakeshore road), where Kungoni Centre is situated, dates further back, to 1902: its church, mission house, schools (including a deaf school) and hospital are significant institutions in their own right. However, it is Claude Boucher, now in his seventy-sixth year, and originally from Canada, who has made Mua distinctive among other religious missions in Malawi, and a necessary part of the itinerary of any visitor to Malawi with cultural and artistic interest.
Claude Boucher (himself an artist) attracted to Mua a number of artists (mostly carvers, but also painters and potters) to form what is now Kungoni Centre. The quality and invention of their work have won just renown, not only throughout Malawi but also across Africa and the world. It is in many styles: Christian and traditional (Chewa, Ngoni and Yao), offering not least a cheerful and satirical, sometime insightful, commentary on life in rural Malawi; but it is perhaps most stimulating to observe the attempt to translate ideas learned from missionaries into local idiom. Christ of the Kungoni Centre is definitely an African! The artists’ work is available for sale either at Kungoni Centre’s art gallery and showroom or at Lakeshore lodges and outlets in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Commissions are also accepted.
Kungoni Centre is famous also for the Chamare Museum, which must count among the most insightful ethnographic museums in southern Africa, and for its cultural troupe, which performs traditional dance not only for visitors to Kungoni Centre but as far afield as the Nc’wala Ceremony in Zambia. Last August Kungoni Centre came to national attention when, as part of its annual Open Day, it staged a play, incorporating Gule Wamkulu, which related the environmental devastation that is being worked in Malawi to the Chewa myth of creation. If you have not made the journey to Kungoni Centre, come to see what it has to offer; and be sure to spend a night at Namalikhate lodge, where the chalets are themselves works of art!
As Kungoni Centre began to reflect on forty years of achievement, it seemed right for a small body of friends to attempt the record of what will otherwise be lost together with its oral memory: we call this work the Kungoni Art Project. We have (thus far) collected the biographies of over 220 artists who have lived and worked at Kungoni Centre (incorporating often several generations of the same family); and have recorded some 3500 examples of their work throughout Malawi and in over twenty other countries. The variety of subject and approach is extraordinary, but time is running out! On the night of 15th November 2015 the church at Nyungwe (between Blantyre and Zomba) burned down: it was a fine example of Kungoni work dating back to the 1980’s; and it contained paintings by Claude Boucher and his (now deceased) collaborator P. Tambala Mponyani. It is fortunate that we had already recorded Nyungwe, but there is other work that is known only from old photographs or can be reconstructed only from Claude Boucher’s written notes and memory; and time, neglect and theft have all too often exacted their toll on what remains.
Our purpose is to create an archive of material, which will extend from Claude Boucher’s earliest artwork in his native Canada in the 1950’s, through his arrival in Malawi in 1967 and his encounter with the men who would become Kungoni Centre’s first artists, to the four decades of activity, each with their own emphases, that succeeded the establishment of Kungoni Centre in 1976. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE – PDF FILE
Please find a report from OXFAM on the growing and worrying inequality in Malawi. This was published in November and give a very good picture of the divide between the rich and poor. Bill Turnbull, M.Afr
By Oxfam in Malawi’s Country Director, John Makina
Economic inequality has worsened significantly in Malawi in recent years. In 2004, the richest 10 percent of Malawians consumed 22 times more than the poorest 10 percent. By 2011 this had risen to see the richest 10 percent spending 34 times more than the poorest. Yet even this shocking statistic is likely to be a significant underestimate1. Anyone who has seen the many large mansions springing up on the edges of Lilongwe and Blantyre, and the plethora of new shopping malls being opened, knows that conspicuous consumption amongst the richest is dramatically growing. Malawi’s Gini coefficient, the key measure of inequality, also shows the extent to which robust economic growth is benefiting the rich whilst leaving the poor behind. In seven years of impressive growth, the Gini has leapt up from 0.39, on a par with Cameroon, to 0.45, on a par with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This study modelled the link between inequality, growth and poverty in Malawi over the next five years. In 2015, 8 million people – 50 percent of the country’s population – live in poverty. Yet if inequality continues to rise as it has in recent years, by 2020 1.5 million more Malawians will be poor3. Even if inequality stays broadly at the level it is now, there will still be 400,000 additional people living in poverty in Malawi by 20204. Unless Malawi acts now to reduce inequality, even rapid economic growth will fail to reduce poverty in the country.
Inequality is not an accident, nor is it inevitable; it originates from policy choices. Consequently, some policy choices can worsen inequality while others reduce it. As is aptly pointed out by UNRISD, ‘Without deliberate policy interventions, high levels of inequality tend to be self-perpetuating. They lead to the development of political and economic institutions that work to maintain the political, economic and social privileges of the elite.
This study has identified a number of factors driving inequality in Malawi, and made clear that poverty reduction in Malawi will be faster if inequality decreases. But reducing inequality will not be a benign by-product of growth under trickle down assumptions. It will only happen as a result of deliberate joint policy efforts, which all Malawi’s government and civil society must unify behind.
On Saturday 16th August, Christians gathered together in the compound of Lilongwe Cathedral to celebrate the Jubilee of three diocesan Priests and witness the priestly ordination of five deacons, among them one of our confreres; Remi Nyengere. With songs of praise and thanksgiving, people came to welcome their new pastoral leaders. A good number of Missionaries of Africa, MSOLA, the delegation of Zambia and some visitors from Spain were present to support him in his new commitment. In his homily, the Archbishop of Lilongwe, Most Rev. Tarcisio Ziyaye, explained the importance of prayer in the life of a priest. “Prayer, he said, is like an engine of a car in the life of a priest’’. He also invited parents to offer their children to the Church for the sake of salvation. The six hours Mass ended with a reception organized in the bishop’s house for all religious. Remi celebrated his first Mass the following day in his home Parish at Mponela which is about 55km north of Lilongwe. Remi is the first Missionary of Africa from his Parish. “His ordination, said Monsignor Sonkani, Parish Priest of Mponela, is the opening door of missionary vocations’’. During this celebration, the family members of our confrere expressed their gratitude to the entire family of Missionaries of Africa for accompanying Remi during his formation journey. Remi is appointed to Katakwi Parish, Soroti, in Uganda. We wish him all the best! Etienne Ngoma – Stagiaire at Chezi Parish, Malawi