Minister Hails Zodiak National Dance Competition
Minister of Tourism Michael Usi has said the dancing competition which Zodiak Broadcasting Station-ZBS has introduced should be treated as part of tourism, and a means to generate income for households and the country.
Usi was speaking in Lilongwe on during the launch of the competition, where he said culture answers questions that new generations ask, but was quick to lament that the country’s young people are unfortunately relating better with traditions from elsewhere.
He added that this young generation is in the habit of copying foreign dances, indicating the need for revitalizing the local dances and letting young people know about their tradition.
“In this respect, some will look at other cultures as inferior, and therefore as Malawi, we should guard against any intrusions because our culture is sufficient and unique in its own right. My concern is that our youths today seem not to know their culture, which does not resonate with our culture”, he said.
He added that this is a concept that will always be a challenge in many countries globally, especially in the developing world due to globalization which brings attitudes of centralism.
“Culture does ask questions, culture does provide answers because culture is about the way we live as a people, so we should ask ourselves how it contributes to us as Malawians. It contributes to responding to challenges that are associated with evaluating the very impact that it is expected to give. So, I find this competition very important because it will also provide an opportunity for income generation to the groups that will take part, and as a product of tourism as well”, said Usi.
ZBS Director of Programs Joab Frank Chakhaza said while the initiative is beneficial to the station’s programming and entertainment, it also serves as a solution to the erosion of culture.
Chakhaza added that it is imperative to regard traditional dances as part of the tourism sector that can contribute immensely to the country's development and culture.
He added that living and working with people means whatever concerns them is also Zodiak’s business, adding the station has noted an erosion of culture in the recent years, and therefore decided people can only relate well and be reminded of their culture and history through the competition.
“One thing for sure is that the media is powerful. It’s just that the traditional dances and heritage in the rural areas are not exposed. We believe in exposing the talents that are lying idle in the village, so every person should know that they have got a talent that needs exposure. They should know that they can in turn get something out of it through tourism, because people can come from all walks of life to watch traditional dances”, he said.
Chakhaza added that the Zodiak National Dance Competition-Zondaco is here to stay as long as traditional dances in Malawi are there.
“We are therefore depending on private companies and different partnerships to reach out to large groups of people. There are people that want to advertise, ministries and others need to come together because we can’t do this by ourselves. Others can use this platform to spread their messages”, Chakhaza added.
Some traditional groupings Chewa Heritage Foundation and Chiwanja Cha Ayao representatives whose dances will be involved, have both agreed the competition will help in preserving their cultures.
Similarly, Bayer Malawi Country Head Chikondi Ng’ombe urged the corporate world to support the competition which is at the center of the life of their customers.
“At Bayer, we have a vision to have health for all and hunger for none, and we believe that part of that health comes from entertainment and other activities, so most of our customers are farmers that live in rural areas, and we decided to support them through this competition,”said Ng’ombe.
Ng’ombe adds, “Culture is part of identity and when you know who you are and where you come from, and even from the mental health perspective. It is something that gives people some comfort, so it is part of mental health and how we identify as people if we know who we are and where we come from.”
According to Zodiak, the competition, which is being piloted in ten districts, will grow and expand with time to all the 28 districts. Chimtali, vimbuza and manganje are the traditional dances that have been roped in the pilot year.