Tumaini Festival builds hope and understanding through music

Around the world, issues of migration, displacement and refugees are becoming increasingly important. The Tumaini Festival is a unique community music festival held in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, Malawi. It aims to promote collaboration and hope through music. The second edition of the event takes place on Saturday 14 November from 9am to 5pm.

A scene from the 2014 Tumaini Festival. Photo: Facebook
A scene from the 2014 Tumaini Festival. Photo: Facebook

Organised by the Dzaleka Cultural Association (DCA), Tumaini (a Swahili word meaning ‘hope’) is a free festival that showcases local music, traditional dance and poetry.

Dzaleka refugee camp was established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1994 in response to a wave of forcibly displaced people fleeing genocide, violence and wars in Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC. Prior to becoming a refugee camp, the Dzaleka facility had served as a political prison. In recent years the camp’s population has swelled to 20 000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, with a small number of people from Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Many of them spent years in other refugee camps in the DRC, Zambia and Tanzania before arriving in Dzaleka. Some have lived their entire lives in UN refugee camps. Others are merely passing through, on their way to countries like South Africa to rebuild their lives. Located less than 50km from Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, Dzaleka is the only camp of its kind in Malawi.

The Dzaleka Cultural Association was established by Congolese slam poet, hip-hop artist and writer Menes La Plume, himself a refugee at the camp. It has set up for various initiatives in the camp, such as creative writing classes and the Tumaini Festival, which was first held in 2014, thanks in part to an ambitious crowdfunding campaign that saw 33 backers pledged £1180 (US$1820) to help bring this project to life. It also has the support of Lake of Stars, the biggest annual music festival in Malawi. The inaugural event on 22 November 2014 was a big success, drawing over 3000 people attend with music and art from over seven countries in the region, including DRC and Rwanda.

In an interview with local newspaper The Times in June this year, organiser Menes la Plume explained: “Tumaini Festival is an idea that came in mind after observing that refugees are not really understood in Malawi - they are called ‘Maburundi’. To promote better understanding, I came up with this festival and I want through this platform for everyone to go visit the refugee camp and meet refugees, appreciate their creativity and interact.”

“We will have the main stage and another stage, as well as a space for children. The festival will bring artists from all corners of Malawi. This will really be a Malawi celebration in the United Nations of Dzaleka,” added the poet.

Artists on the bill this year include local stars George Kalukusha, Young Chilaga, Lily Banda, Adrian Kwelepeta and Faith Mussa, along with Deogracias Namiva (Mozambique) and many more, including organiser Menes La Plume (DRC), who is promoting the release of his debut album Far From Home with a tour of the country.

Watch highlights from last year’s festival in the video below:



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