I’m ashamed to say that if someone had asked me where Malawi was before I looked at this project, I would hum, and ha, and probably shrug my shoulders. “Somewhere in Africa? Yeah? Nah?”
Malawi is a country located in southeast Africa, and is targeted by the UN’s 2025 Development Goal of extreme poverty eradication.
Meet Renee Gerlich who was born and bred in Paraparaumu. Renee grew up in a town without an arts centre. She admits she spent most her time ‘nose diving into atlases’, longing to be amongst those who wrote the books and created the art she immersed herself in. She worked in the museum industry for ten years, and is now an art history tutor, working and simultaneously starting her own business. (Wonderwoman much?)
Meet Mike Gondwe. Mike and his team travel across regions of Malawi, providing art education to rural areas that would otherwise have little to no access to the world of art. He invents creative ways to educate children on issues such as preventing Malaria through dance, and encourages villages to revive old art forms such as cloth making. One village in particular were able to open a store! It is clear that his teaching style is not conventional, but Mike uses art as a pragmatic way to make development ends and for people to have fun.
Malawi: Art for Prosperity is one of PledgeMe’s many current crowd-funding babies. It has been formed through the insight of Renee Gerlich and the work of Mike Gondwe.
Mike began teaching at schools in the rural areas of Malawi before making the move to the Museum of Malawi in 1980. He has a solid reputation amongst international museum, art and education practitioners who regularly commission him to speak at conferences.
Renee met Mike for the first time at a museum conference in 2008. She noticed his conviction for art education immediately, and admired the confidence he had in delivering his messages to museum professionals across the globe. His projects are in urgent demand, however they are all externally funded and this has inspired Renee’s crowd funding project.
Between his interactions with worldwide museums and work in Malawi, Mike becomes somewhat invisible. For this reason alone, Renee believes that it is imperative that she contribute to his art and learn from Mike at a more personal level, in order to circulate and preserve his legacy. Renee wants others outside of the museum world to experience the relevance and humility of Mike’s work.
Renee believes that art education is inherently important for all types of people. Diversities offer more opportunities to learn and for growth as a society. In these times of economic hardship, art education is often left to fend for itself, and given little sponsorship or prioritisation.
Curiosity is the mother of invention. Creativity encourages curiosity; Curiosity inspires creativity. Where will the future inventors be if they are not given food for thought? We must invest in the future’s creative thinkers. Through this project, Renee wants to address art education at a more personal level.
“I believe that there are messages in this project about arts and education that could really support arts practitioners, who struggle to define their significance in a world obsessed with competitive economic development and tangible outcomes.” – Renee Gerlich.
Malawi: Art for Prosperity has garnered over $1370 worth of pledges. The educational and cultural eminence of this project is undoubtable. Malawi: Art for Prosperity is an opportunity to experience the universal investment in art education for people across the world.
For more details and an awesome video, check the Pledge Me page here.