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Refugees thriving in foreign land

By Stephen Ephraem

CULTURE brings exciting moments when people of different backgrounds tolerate each other and Chipinge District being dominated by Ndau culture for most people under chief Mutema, Musikavanhu, Garahwa, Gwenzi and Mapungwana.

It’s chief Mpungu who trades between his original Ndwandwe/Nguni culture and that of the Xangani and Ndaus while Chief Mahenye has Tsonga/Xangana culture dominating.

Among the seven chiefs of Chipinge, Mutema seems to be pregnant with cultural diversity due to his geographical location of being in the Tongogara Refugee Camp which is home to asylum seekers and refugees.

According to a report released by Tongogara Refugee Camp Administrator Mr Johanne Mhlanga during a visit by the minister of Public Services, Labour and Social Welfare Honourable Professor Paul Mavima on 24 September 2020, the place had 14 542 refugees and asylum seekers as of that date.

According to the report, 75% constituted those from Democratic Republic of Congo, 11.07% from Mozambique, 6.2% Burundi, 4.7% Rwanda and 2.53% from smaller communities.

Such a scenario is healthy in cultural and arts circles. Tongagara has all what it needs as far as cultural exchange is concerned.

Cultural aspects like language come to play. Apart from the popular KiSwahili spoken across the Great Lakes where most of the refugees and asylum seekers originate, there are languages such as KiNyarwanda, Lingala, French and many others.

The most exciting thing is that the Tongogara Refugee Camp refugees and asylum seekers learn to speak either English or Ndau so fast. Also, locals who provide services to the refugees and asylum seekers learn KiSwahili as well.
Culture can make a refugee or asylum seeker thrive in foreign land. Such is the case of Cedrick Mulumba Kayembe from the Democratice Republic of congo (DRC), a polished actor who holds a big vision as far as film and television production is concerned.

Kayembe admires the Zimbabwe and Zambian cultures which he experienced during the past six years.

“I am humbled by the warm receptions which my family received in Zambia when we were heading to Zimbabwe. It was more soothing when we arrived in Zimbabwe and found a welcoming culture of the locals.

“As an artist well versed in cultural issues, I felt indebted to tell the world how tolerance and unity is prevailing in Zimbabwe and how this is beneficial to the development of Africa as a continent. I speak through arts and I am geared to do so,” said Kayembe.

The 20 year old artist revealed that he has already started working on a television series which is themed on cultural tolerance.

“I have started the initial stages of film production which is creating a concept for my television series. It’s all about the tolerance and unity culture which is loaded in Zimbabwe.

“Firstly, tolerance is plenty in the Ndau communities that surround our camp. We feel at home. Secondly, tolerance is galore among the government and non-governmental organisations workers who cater for our welfare.

“It is so clear that Zimbabweans don’t look at one’s status in order for them to help a person. It’s their culture to help.
“The people of this country have proved to the world that Africa is one people. Our cultures might differ but tolerance and unity is plenty. I am producing a television series that portray the cultural tolerance that Zimbabweans have maintained,” he said.

On his arts career, Cedrick Mulumba Kayembe, who is affectionately known as Junior in arts circles, indicated that he started acting at a tender age.

“I started acting back home in DRC around 2007. It was a short film. I enjoyed my role back then. In 2010, I took part as a support character in a film called Mamako ndi mama wangu (Your mother is my mother).
“When I came to Zimbabwe in 2014, I became guest actor in two dramas that were produced in Tongogara Refugee Camp. The drama was not filmed.

“In 2019, that is when I revived my passion for the big screen by producing a zero budget short film named But Why. Since it was done on voluntary basis, the project is still under post-production,” he said.

Cedrick Kayembe has engaged the services of one of Chipinge based filmmaker to help him with preproduction and later production of his television series.

On a parting note, Kayembe hailed the Tongogara Refugee Camp authorities for their open door policy.

“I want to thank the Zimbabwean Government which has shown us great support through the camp authorities. Cultural arts are very alive in the camp because the Government allowed us to do so and the authorities are very supportive.