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Dzaleka refugee connects artists as documentary finally premieres

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A documentary titled Tré sor and the Camp Musicians finally premiered on Al Jazeera English on Witness on Sunday night.

This is a documentary that tells the inspiring story of Trésor Nzengu Mpauni (aka Menes), who successfully crowd-funded a collaborative album between Malawian and Congolese refugee artists.

In the documentary, Tresor is the main player as he takes us through the day to day life at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, where 20,000 inhabitants are not legally allowed to work, or even to leave the camp without permission.

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Tresor, who is single, has lived at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, which has grown from a collection of tents in 1994 into a big village, but still depends on monthly food deliveries from the World Food Programme to survive.

Like 500, 000 other refugees around the world and most of the people at Dzaleka, Trésor fled the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As an up-and-coming musician and slam poet there, he became a victim of repeat attacks after performing a poem that spoke of the political situation in the country at that time, “of being dominated by war and dictatorship.”

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University-educated and relatively privileged for most of his life, Trésor initially struggled to adapt to life at Dzaleka, until he discovered the camp was home to a wealth of musical talent, and even someone who made guitars.

Determined that the skills within Dzaleka should not be wasted, Trésor approached Malawian artists, including hip hop star Third Eye, to collaborate on an album with the refugees with the aim of fighting against xenophobia and challenging stereotypes through the music.

Directed by South African Neil Shaw, Trésor and the Camp Musicians is a remarkable testimony to the power of the internet to uplift communities, and of how global platforms like Indiegogo and iTunes are creating new opportunities for artists in Africa.

“Malawians are good people and Malawi is a good country and so this is why I thought of bringing artists together to tell the story of Dzaleka, the processes we go through to go out and several other things,” says Tresor.

In the documentary, there are also scenes where Tresor is shown performing at the Living Room in Lilongwe where different poets gather to show their talent.

Tresor in the documentary uses his resources to bring artists at Dzaleka together, who had dumped their guitars and brings them to the studio to record an album.

One of the artists he works with is Kano, a refugee guitarist, who fled the DRC after his parents were killed.

“When I sing, it helps me forget what happened in my country. This music gives me something beautiful, refreshes me, and makes me feel human,” he says.

Third Eye real name says in the documentary that he is happy to work with Tresor in the song titled ‘Far from Home,’ and the recording is done by BFB.

Tresor has been involved in several arts projects and was part of the Solomonic Peacocks team when they hosted a theatre festival in April. He also organised a festival at Dzaleka which attracted several artists and Lake of Stars Festival organisers came in to partner them.

After the premiere on Sunday, Tresor and the Camp Musicians was also expected to screen yesterday with additional screenings following up today from 4:30 CAT, tomorrow 17:30 and Thursday 06:30.

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