It has been asserted, countless times, that a photograph is worth a thousand words. And photog-raphy is an art hence photogra¬phers in the country have an arts group called Photographers As-sociation of Malawi (Photama). In this interview, TEMWANI MGUNDAengages Photama president, LUCKY MKANDAWIRE, on the association and other related issues.
For how long has Photama been in existence? What are its objectives?
The association has been in exis¬tence since January 1998. It was formed at the end of an exciting week long gath¬ering of journalists and photographers for a Photojournalism / Visual Literacy training workshop in Blantyre. During the workshop, participants observed that one of the most striking benefits of the course was the opportunity to share their experiences and skills as well as their frustrations as photographers. The objectives of Photama are to pro¬mote the art of photography in Malawi, protect the interests and rights of pho¬tographers and their works in Malawi and link local photographers with global photographers.
How many photographers are mem¬bers? How does one become a member?
At the moment we have around 400 members across the country. Member¬ship to the association is non-compul-sory; that is we do not force any pho¬tographer or would-be photographer to join the association. What we do is to tell people the benefits of belonging to the organisation. At the moment, members include professional, amateur and beginner photographers with a va¬riety of specialization and experience. We also have journalists, students, educators, videographers and institu¬tions such as photographic studios and equipment suppliers.
You rarely hold exhibitions, why?
Not true. Photama is one of the seven rights holder associations in Malawi that have, since 2005, been receiving financial grants from the Royal Nor¬wegian Embassy through the Cultural Support Scheme. This scheme is ad-ministered by the Copyright Society of Malawi. And, through this scheme, the association has been holding photo exhibitions in Blantyre and Lilongwe on an annual basis except 2011 and this year.
However, because of the partnerships we have established over the years, Photama has managed to conduct two separate photo exhibi¬tions (2011 and 2012) in coopera¬tion with the Blantyre Arts Festival. Last year, the exhibition was held at the College of Medicine Sports Complex while this year it took place at the French Cultural Centre.
Apart from the exhibitions, any other nota¬ble achievements registered by Photama?
During its 15 years of existence, the as¬sociation has, among other things, sent its members to attend international trainings in Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique, Sweden, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Botswana. We also conduct training workshops in digital photography, business management and marketing skills, female and photography, technical skills development, copyright and piracy, ICT use and pho¬tography, TV documentary and HIV and Aids mainstreaming in photography.
Do we have local competitions in photography as is the case in other arts disciplines like music, drama and writing? And, do your members participate in international competitions?
Yes, Photama has held local compe¬titions before but due to financial con¬straints that has not happened for the last few years. However, the good news is that in the next four to five months we will be launching the annual Photama Photo Awards. The awards will be fol¬lowed by a photo exhibition. The two activities are expected to be conducted be¬tween the month of April and May 2013 because during the same period Photama will also be commemorating its 15th an¬niversary so we want the awards to be the highlights.
A good number of our members have been participating in international competitions and I am proud to say that they have not embarrassed us. One of our youthful female members (Thoko Chikondi) won the 2011 regional photo competition organised by CTA/NEPAD. She emerged the best photographer in Southern Africa in the category of Youth/Women Involvement in ICT and Climate Change. She was given 800 Euros cash, a trophy and books, besides attending a media training workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Amos Gumulira, one of the few well known photojournalists in Malawi, has also won a number of international awards including the World Press Photo.
Your last word?
I am glad a number of photographers are now realising the importance of belonging to Photama. However, there are still thousands of photographers in Malawi who are not yet members and we would like to invite them to join this progres¬sive group. They can visit our offices in Arts House (CLAIM Mabuku Building), Top Floor, opposite Blantyre Main Post Office for registration.