Creativity should, ideally, be exciting.
In a conducive environment, it can open the floodgates of success and reduce the bricks of poverty to ashes.
This is especially true when we consider the fact that it is not enough to make a name in the arts; those who join the industry must also be able to acquire a certain greatness, and become richer and happier than those who opened the way for them. This state of affairs should apply in an ideal world of creativity.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in Malawi. The creative industry, instead of being exciting and well-paying, is grisly. Take, for instance, the case of poets- yes, those unique human beings who are capable of compressing the world they know and the world they create into stanzas.
One would think that the Felix Njonjonjo Katsokas, the Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwas, Hudson Chamasowas, Sylvester Kalizang’omas, Evelyn Maotchas, Joseph Madzedzes, among others, would be living the fruits of their creativity.
However, theirs is a vindication that, sometimes, justice is blind. Poets who have produced albums will tell you that they have fought tooth and nail to prompt the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) to protect and safeguard their works, with little success. Even when Cosoma stickers were the in-thing for musicians, the poets were left out, alternatively at the mercy of their own devices.
And the situation has remained largely unchanged. Poets who release poetry albums are left to safeguard their works against piracy by themselves. To make matters worse, when musicians are lining up to get their loyalties from Cosoma, the poets- who have taken the radio airwaves by storm and are riding on a new wave of popularity- watch from a distance.
They wish they could be the ones showered with such monetary rewards because they deserve to lay their hands on the loot, too. However, always standing in their way is- not piracy perpetrators- but authority figures who were supposed to protect them.
In fact, instead of promoting justice, and recognising that poets, too, are covered by intellectual property instruments, the copyright authorities behave like a mysterious adult who looms over a child’s world- large and menacing and insensitive.
Add to the dish the problems of piracy and the picture changes from hopeless to ruthless.
Why should this be case when the copyright authorities are armed to the tooth by the laws of the land? Why should this be the case when the copyright authorities have a vast fund of experience in planning and carrying out anti-piracy programmes.
It is high time the copyright authorities abandoned their, sometimes, snap judgments and embraced the reality that poets have created a niche on the market and deserve as much protection as all intellectual property rights holders.
Only progressive thinking can put an end to this fruitless misunderstanding. Let’s remember that unity in purpose is the stuff of serious minds.
Of course, sometimes the poets put the copyright authorities in dilemma. For instance, when some clueless poets incorporate folktale and village songs in their act, they make their story commonplace, forcing the copyright authorities to face a Hobson’s Choice as they walk the thin line of distinguishing the poet’s original work from stuff owned by the entire nation (the case of folktales, for example).
To make matters worse, some poems sound like a brunt-edged knife that fails to sparkle with wit; being shallow, uneducated, uninspiring and loosely-compacted. Where are the sparkling, sharp-edged stanzas of the 80s, 90s, early 2000s?
Of course, some say the poets of yester-year sounded similar, a sure sign, they say, that they lacked imagination. Whatever the argument, at least the stanzas were married to wit, followed established techniques, and the messages were educated.
Whatever bone one may have to pick against the poets, there is no convincing reason for leaving them out in the cold: hungry and unattended to. Let poets enjoy what belongs to them. It’s high time we ended the silent melancholy our poets have endured for years.