From 2003 to 2010, (the Government of Malawi acceded to the Convention in 2010), the Department of Culture carried out a number of awareness raising conferences with officials, traditional authorities, teachers, youth, journalists and communities. After the accession, the department embarked on review of the cultural policy and relevant legislation, as well as strengthened capacities for implementation of the Convention through training community youth on community-based inventorying of ICH.
In 2015, the Department of Culture finally convinced cabinet, after years of lobbying, to approve the National Culture Policy which recognizes the importance of ICH. The policy also provides for the establishment of a National Arts and Heritage Council to spearhead both the preservation of natural heritage and safeguarding of cultural heritage. It further provides for the review of the relevant pieces of legislation such as the Arts and Craft Act, Monuments and Relics Act, Museums Act and Copyright Act. All the relevant pieces of legislation have been revised but only the Copyright Act of 1989 has so far gone through parliament and in 2015 the amendment became law. The Act now emphasizes the importance of “expressions of folklore” and provides the qualifications for it which are in line with the 2003 Convention. It also ensures there is benefit sharing with communities, groups and individuals for any form of exploitation of folklore for commercial purposes.
A group of experts were trained in a series of sub-regional capacity building courses organised by the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (UNESCO-ROSA) between 2013 and 2015. Seven professionals from Malawi were capacitated during these courses creating a core team of experts on 2003 Convention. A series of trainings on community-based inventorying of ICH were conducted between 2010 and 2016. The target groups of the training were government officers in museums, arts and crafts, youth, community leaders and teachers. The trainings were in two categories. The first category was for trainers and the second was for practitioners in the communities. The trainers were the government officers and teachers while the practitioners were youth, community leaders and other community members.
The trained communities were then supported to establish community-based inventories which were included in the national inventories.
Three national inventories were elaborated between 2007 and 2015. Since 2013, five elements namely; Tchopa, the Sacrificial Dance of the Lhomwe People of Southern Malawi; Nsima, the Culinary Tradition of Malawi; Kukwengula Mabwese, the Tradition of Extracting Oil from Palm Fruit Among the Nyakyusa of Northern Malawi; Mwinoghe, the Joyous Dance of the Sukwa People; and Sansi/Mbira Music Playing, have since been nominated for inscription on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and one element, Kaligo Music Playing, was nominated to the ICH in Need for Urgent Safeguarding List. One of the nominations, Tchopa the Sacrificial Dance, was inscribed in 2014. The rest are yet to be treated following the order of priority given by the State.
Malawi was the pioneer of a sub-regional cooperation project to strengthen capacities for implementation of the 2003 Convention among seven countries in Southern Africa namely, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The sub-regional cooperation has led to the creation of a platform called Southern Africa ICH Platform which is hosted by University of Chinhoyi in Zimbabwe. The platform has a website and publishes a periodic newsletter. The platform has a database called Southern Africa ICH Database onto which the seven countries have uploaded their ICH inventories. Malawi also facilitated establishment of ties with other regional platforms such as ICH Asia-Pacific platform for exchange of information on ICH activities to find common grounds for cooperation.