Established in 1994 by the United Nations, the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi is called home-for-now (and sometimes forever) by more than 52,000 people, from a multitude of countries—at present, mostly from Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. All the camp residents carry scars from what transpired in their home countries, their journeys to security, and the challenges of living in a camp. From laws against working and living outside the camp, restrictions on mobility, and conflicts amongst the population, it is easy to imagine a place of dull hopelessness.
A visit to Dzaleka will show you just the opposite.
Conditions are tough, and in real need of attention. It is also true that around every corner are painters, dance-crews, musicians, poets, crafters, photographers, fashion designers, jewelry makers, dramatists, and digital artists. These are not refugees who are artists; these are artists who happen to be refugees.
This website is a product of a collaborative, community-based project between young artists living in the Dzaleka refugee camp and a professor and students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia in the United States. A team of six young artists who live in Dzaleka documented the arts and artists of the camp through photography and the collection of life stories in 2022. The US team worked to compile the materials into this website and a book The Dzaleka Art Project that will be published soon.
Please explore the website to meet some of the artists in the camp and enjoy their talent. There are many more artists and life in the camp is constantly changing. This website represents only what our team documented during the short period of the project. Feel free to reach out to those artists who have shared their contact information (see individual artist biographies) to express your appreciation, learn more, or support their arts. We have also included some information about the status of refugees/displaced peoples in Malawi and life in the camp.
The project was inspired and supported by Trésor Nzengu Mpauni and the NGO he founded Tumaini Letu that puts on the annual Tumaini Festival within the camp
For more information about the project, go to “Project Overview.”