Refugee poet tours Malawi with message of peace

Multilingual Congolese slam poet, hip-hop artist and writer Menes La Plume will launch his debut album, Far From Home, with a nationwide tour of Malawi to promote peace and understanding towards refugees.

Menes La Plume.
Menes La Plume.

The highly anticipated four-date tour and album features a number of collaborations between Menes, a Congolese refugee from Lubumbashi, and a host of leading Malawian artists, including Q Malewezi, Faith Mussa, Danny Kalima, Third Eye, Peter Mawanga and Neil & the New Vibration. Patience Namadingo, whose hit ‘Msati Mseke’ is taking the country by storm, will perform alongside Menes throughout the tour, with other artists featured on the album appearing as special guests at various shows.

“I strongly believe that art has power to transform,” said Menes about his motivations for creating the album. “Art helps people understand and appreciate each other.”

Following a successful crowd-funding campaign that was 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 a peaceful co-existence between people. Music and poetry come together to combat xenophobia, change public perceptions of refugees and promote cultural diversity. 

The tour kicks off in Mzuzu on Friday 6 November at Key Lounge. It moves to Lilongwe’s Lingadzi Inn on Saturday 7 November.  Next up is Blantyre the following day, Sunday 8 November, where Menes will perform at Steers Garden from 3pm. The tour ends at the Tumaini Festival at Dzaleka refugee camp on Saturday 14 November. This is 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.

Menes first fell in love with writing and public performance at the 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 DR 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.

Demand in Malawi for Menes’ unique and inspiring performances has increased over time, with Menes being billed at events such as the Lake of Stars Festival, Blantyre Arts Festival, Mwezi Wawala Festival, Lilongwe Shorts and TEDxLilongwe.

“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.”

Limited VIP tickets are available for the Lilongwe show on Saturday, which may be reserved by calling 0999506904 or emailing fran@lakeofstars.org.  For more information visit Menes’ Facebook page. Listen to ‘A Quoi Bon’ from the new album below.

 

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