Things we take for granted

We were so uncomfortable in the hot temperature of one midday this week. The vehicle we were packed in seemed like an oven.

Koma kutentha uku kwanyanya [this heat is beyond bearable],” said one passenger. We chorused in agreement in the ‘mobile furnace’

As the discussion grew, I realised how we sometimes take precious things for granted.

You see, I had been to one office that day, a well air-conditioned room with invitingly-cold drinks to choose from. It was a complete universe away from the realities of the people that lined the streets out there.

Yes, in that fiery kiln of an afternoon, a woman in her late 40s, carried a seemingly unwell youngman, probably is his 20s, on her back.

And then, alighting from the vehicle at my destination, my eyes tearfully fell on anunfortunate barefooted boy with a notebook in his hand, fanning his scorched feet.

Ulibe nsapato? [Don’t you have shoes]?” I queried.

Ndili nazo, koma zikuthina ndiye zikuotcha [I have shoes, but they are small for me and hence uncomfortable in the heat],” he responded.

The boy still had over a kilometre to do. It pained my heart so fatally I had to part with all I had towards his acquiring a pair his size.

The world out there is sometimes more unbearable than we think ours is!

Sometimes it is then very important to wake up early in the morningto murmur our thanksgiving into the beautiful skies.

So, let’s meet at Dzaleka!

This weekend, you can do yourself good and see others put their concerns aside, for a while.

Dzaleka, Malawi’s only permanent refugee camp and home to about 30 000 refugees from a rainbow of origins, invites you to the fifth edition of the camp’s annual music and cultural fete, the Tumaini Festival.

Imagine a free dose of lots of artists from the camp plus Nepman and Great Angels Choir from 2pm to 9pm on Friday and , on Saturday, from 8am to 9pm a list that with Erik Paliani, Theo Thomson, Patience Namadingo and Code Sangala on it.

The festival, free of charge, started in 2014 as brainchild of emigrant Trésor Nzengu Mpauni, also known as Menes La Plume, 35.

Tumaini is Swahili for ‘Hope’. Yes, hope a hard road of years in a refugee camp, away from the sunrise of home.

“Tumaini is the world’s first international music and arts festival at a refugee camp; it’s an innovation, a trendsetter to the world in a day and age of a refugee crisis,” La Plume says about his brainchild.

Dzaleka perches just about 45 kilometres north of the Capital City Lilongwe and houses refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi, with smaller numbers of people from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and other countries.

In Malawi, policy is yet to grant refugees the rights to employment, property or the freedom of movement.

“This greatly isolates refugees. It limits their financial capacity, and restricts their ability to access cultural events,” says La Plume.

He grasps that event therefore provides a unique opportunity to support an innovative, large-scale cultural event developed and delivered by refugees and their host community.

Tumaini frees refugees to express themselves, not as people in need, but as people with something to give or contribute. n


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