After his dream of an art celebration at Dzaleka Refugee Camp came to fruition last year, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) asylum-seeker Menes is living no stone unturned in his quest to be an art powerhouse.
In November last year, the artist, born Tresor Mpauni, founded and organised Tumaini, a music and cultural festival
He was the hero of the 20 000 refugees who showered him with cheerful looks as the festival exceeded expectations.
A well known slam poet and member of the Living Room Poetry Club as well as a musician, Menes is now launching his debut album, Far From Home.
“I strongly believe that art has power to transform. Art helps people understand and appreciate each other,” said Menes about his motivation for creating the album.
After a successful crowd funding campaign featured on Al Jazeera’s Witness series, Far From Home was recorded to bring together refugee artists and well-known Malawian musicians as a means of promoting better understanding and co-existence between people.
Music and poetry come together to combat xenophobia, change public perceptions of refugees, and promote cultural diversity.
He has since organised a nationwide tour to launch and promote his album.
“The tour opens in Mzuzu on November 6 at Key Lounge, before moving to Lilongwe’s Lingadzi Inn the following day. I will be in Blantyre on November 8, at Steers Garden starting from 3pm. The tour concludes with Menes’ performance at the second Tumaini Festival in Dzaleka refugee camp on November 14, a free festival featuring a variety of acts from across Malawi and the camp itself, and the only such event to be held at a UN refugee camp.
The 12-track album was recorded at Rhythm of Life and has a mix of languages, which represents Menes’ life.
“I did songs in English and French and there is one song which I jointly wrote in Chichewa with Faith Mussa.
“It is titled Ndife Amodzi and he is the one who sung the Chichewa parts. These languages speak of my life, the past and the present. My album will be sold in designated shops and by next month, it will be available on iTunes, Amazon and all online music platforms,” he said.
Over time, demand in Malawi for Menes’ unique and inspiring performances has increased, with the artist being billed at events such as the Lake of Stars Festival, Blantyre Arts Festival, Mwezi Wawala Festival, Lilongwe Shorts, and TEDx Lilongwe.
Menes fell in love with writing and public performance at age of nine when he was chosen to represent his school at a regional storytelling showcase.
He launched his professional career in 1998 as a member of the ADKS crew, and become well known nationwide as a solo act in the following years as he toured across his native Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 2008 he was forced to move to Malawi and now lives in Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
One of his main missions is to use the power of words, music, and culture to raise awareness about issues surrounding refugees, and promote unity.
He set up the Dzaleka Cultural Association for various initiatives in the camp, such as creative writing classes and the Tumaini Festival.
“Through my performances in Malawi, I have seen many people change their attitude towards refugees,” said Menes.
“By pursuing these exciting collaborations and by taking this tour across the country, we’re now taking it to another level,” said the 32 year old.
The nationwide tour, produced by Rhythm of Life and Lake of Stars in association with Qoncept Creative, was made possible with the support of Rei Foundation Limited. n