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Using art to bring about change

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They are a group of young dancers who were not known at all in the country but thanks that through their talent they have been exposed.

This is a group known as Salama Africa Dance Crew from Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa who participated in the Ka Jive Dance competition season two spearheaded by Times Group through Times Television.

Salama Africa Dance Crew showed their dance skills and went all the way to the grand finale of the competition and came out as runners up missing the K1.5 million top prize which was won by Blantyre-based Twist.

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They are young dancers who found themselves at the camp having fled from wars and other challenges in their countries.

But while Salama came out shining showing their art of dancing, the group is just one of the examples of the many talents at Dzaleka Refugee Camp.

Observing the many talents at the camp, some young men Farini Wasamba Fredy and Buunda Farini Toussaint decided to form an organisation known as Salama Africa.

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According to Farini Wasamba Fredy, the aim of forming the organisation was to bridge cultural diversities and gather all the people for the common fight against extreme poverty.

He said they were happy that the organisation has today made strides and helped unearth talent in the camp and that the fruits are all over to see citing among others Salama Africa Dance Crew’s success in Ka Jive.

“Salama Africa came up from the finding that the majority of Dzaleka population is composed of creative youth and children who do not have the opportunities to develop and promote their talents,” said Farini.

He said that most of the youths in the camp because they have no platform to show these talents, spend their time engaging in unnecessary activities including drug abuse.

“This exposed the youths to danger for both their individual future and the future of the camp. It was then that we decided to create an organisation to bring these youths together and shine out there with their talents,” he said.

Farini said through these talents they wanted youth to develop their talents and bring about change in the camp.

“Take not that Dzaleka Refugee Camp has people from different countries with different cultural backgrounds and since we have restrictions, many live a life of frustration but we are happy that through this organisation we are erasing all these frustrations,” said Farini.

He added that Salama Africa is a vibrant and new organisation which is creating positive impacts for both the local and surrounding communities of Dzaleka camp and also sharing its best values and talents for Malawi and the world through other creative activities.

While Salama Africa is slowly making inroads in exposing talent, there is also another artist Menes la Plume from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who has also dug deeper using talent to unite people from different backgrounds.

Menes whose real name is Tresor Nzengu Mpauni has lived at Dzaleka for years and has also been holding a free festival known as Tumaini annually.

Through the festival people from different countries have come together and showcased their talent.

Menes whose story was featured on CNN also took a huge step last year by working with some of the renowned artists in the country to produce an album titled Far From Home.

In one of his songs in the album titled ‘Imagine’ Menes speaks for the voiceless Africans who he said are now suffering because of the imported wars.

He gives an example of his war-tone country DRC which was rich in minerals but it is now all over with dead bodies and stinking because of war.

Menes attacks the countries from the West alleging that they propagated wars in the African soil, before making away with diamonds, gold among others through their divide and rule policies.

The 32-year-old Menes claims that money from the West has divided Africa which is now on fire because it has turned the owners of this continent into slaves.

In his other song ‘Aquoi Bon’ Menes said he was inspired to release a poem after a Malawian police officer showered hostilities on him pushing him away from the queue at the time he(Menes) wanted to collect money at one of the auto teller machines in Lilongwe.

“ I was very shocked at one of the police officers who pushed me out of the ATM’s queue besides insulting me and alleged that I was a Burundian behind the insecurity that has rocked this country,” said Menes.

He said this happened after he failed to speak Chichewa fluently to one of the people around the banking premises.

“It was very bad to me especially to see such hostilities were coming from a police officer and I imagined what if it were him that one day he woke up only to see he is in a foreign country because of war, leaving behind his dreams, and investments or having parents killed for no reasons,” said Menes.

Farini said they want through their talents to bring about change on how Malawians perceive them.

He said Salama Africa is a registered organisation which got permission last year.

Apart from bringing Salama Africa Dance Crew to light participating in the Ka Jive Dance Crew, Farini said they have been involved in several activities citing among others participating in the World Day of cultural diversity, for Dialogue where they held a cultural Ballet gathering.

He said over 40 creative young people from different nationalities participated in creative workshops in the areas of dance, music, drawing, handcrafts, poetry and drama.

“The young people presented their talents and art-making to over 120 people including representatives of different other organisations,” he said.

Salama Africa has also showcased different talents in other events including World Refugee Day and World Peace Day.

“We have been used as a tool to disseminate different messages for instance during the World Peace Day, we disseminated information based on the facts that the world is increasingly divided by conflicts (religious conflicts, civil wars and conflicts, etc.),” said Farini.

He said that the majority of Dzaleka population is post conflict generations and that through Salama Africa; they started the Salama Week Project last year in order to get them to think positively and re-invent their future.

Some of the activities they conducted last year through the Salama Week Project included a peace conference on the theme Re-inventing the future of post-conflict generations, and also a charity day to the benefit of 40 margin young people and children.

Farini said today they are happy that Salama Africa Dance Crew has been promoted and that it is now being utilised by different organisations to spice up their events.

“Today many artists and other event organisers are aware of the creative impulse of our dancers to spice their activities,” said Farini.

He said that the specialty of Salama dancers is based on the fact that “they are coming with a dance revolution which seeks to create meaning and convey positive and social transformative messages.”

He said that to Salama Africa, dance is more than entertaining and that it is also creating positive meaning and giving hopeful messages to the world.

He said that in the Ka Jive competition they have successfully spread different messages ranging from shortage of drugs in hospitals in Malawi and Africa as a whole, freedom of populations as a key point of development, and also encouraging the youth to consider education for the betterment and development of their countries.

He said this year, Salama Africa has got the vision to uplift its artistic industry to make great social transformation for the local and global population.

Farini said most of their challenges turn around logistic materials to increase their transformative power to the society.

“We need much technical, logistical, and financial supports from both individuals and other organisations in order to put up activities properly and appeal to a large number of youth.

“Salama Africa has dancers, musicians, visual artists and comedians and all these would want to share their talents to the world out there,” said Farini.

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