Refugees tell their sad experiences through paint and brush

06 Aug 2012

The voiceless refugees of Dukwi Refugee Camp this week used paint and brush to speak when their artistic work was exhibited for the first time in history at Thapong Visual Arts Centre.

Their paintings gave art enthusiasts an insight of their political, economical, cultural knowledge and their daily lives at the refugee camp.

Most of the refugees’ artworks were by Zimbabweans who fled their country at the height of political turmoil; their paintings gave an insight of Zimbabwe politics that has forced them to flee and seek refuge in this country.

“I speak through the brush and paint. We don’t have a voice. No one is able to hear us because we are voiceless,” said Changu Moyo.

Moyo, who is a painter by profession, is enlightened to have shared his artwork with the outside world. He maintained that through art he can express himself culturally, politically and economically.

The painter also explained that the art work has a meaning to an audience who would have never known about the pain and anguish that he endures as a refugee.

He gave a narration about one of his drawings, dubbed “Catastrophe”, which comprises of different images of people and items, such as armed soldiers, chains, barbed wire that crosses over people’s faces and Jesus Christ being crucified.

According to the painter, the drawing shows how politicians in Zimbabwe use soldiers to intimidate and persecute innocent people.

“Their actions are only meant to silence people while there is a lot of poverty and no education. The wire that covers the people’s faces shows how people are forced to speak lies at gun point while the chain also talks about arrest by police and soldiers,” added Moyo.

Through all this, the painter explains that people have been forced to leave their homes in Zimbabwe.

On Jesus Christ’s cross, Moyo asks why Jesus was killed on a cross, and answers the question himself, saying that Jesus Christ was killed for his innocence.

“Jesus died for our sins though he was innocent. Even politicians want to kill innocent people for no apparent reasons,” added Moyo.

Explaining his ordeal, Moyo stated that he fled the country in 2008 during presidential elections and added that his ordeal came immediately after he won a tender to print MDC campaign merchandise.

He said that as a screen printer, he hoped that he would make a living out of the job only to find that armed ZANU PF sympathisers were against it all.

“They viewed me as their enemy. I was intimidated and threatened to be killed for printing the MDC merchandise. Their intimidation actually made me think twice. It was either I continued with the work or flee my country because I was never a free man. I was engulfed with fear,” added Moyo.
In one of his drawings, titled, “Thinking Man”, Moyo drew a picture of a man sitting on a wall with his hands on his head as if the character had a headache. He explained that the drawing, priced at P1600, says all about his life as a refugee.

He stated that a refugee who is not in his home land is always a thinking man, adding that the events that are coupled with limited freedom on social, economic and cultural life make him think almost day and night.

“You don’t rest,” said. “You don’t know where to get your shoes. You are not allowed to work. You don’t have money and what you get is only donations of clothing.”

He was almost in tears as he tried to brief us about when his drawing, titled “Summer Festival”. The drawing shows people in a jovial mood, dancing. Moyo says that the painting reminds him of those nice days back in Zimbabwe. He said that everything was fine both politically and socially.
In one of his drawings, he drew a bird hanging at the mouth of water tap, explaining that the bird is waiting patiently for a drop of water but the tap is dry.

“The standpipes and dams are dry. There is no life. There is nowhere I can get something that I need. I only focus on the drawings of what I experienced. Actually, I don’t see myself living a good life more specially when I watch and see what is happening in Zimbabwe,” he added.

Moyo said that he first became an enemy of the Mugabe regime when he drew some paintings depicting scenes against Operation Murambatswina in 2005.

Moyo stated that as an artist he wanted to send a message but he was harassed for doing what he knows.

He said that soldiers even threatened to cut his hands to deter him from drawing such pictures.
Moyo said that he had to flee.

“I could not wait and I had to run because I was going to lose my hands that I use as my voice. I just imagined death when they told me that they were going to cut my hands. I couldn’t wait for fire. If the fire breaks out you run and it can catch you. If you are lucky you can escape. And here I am, still living,” said Moyo.

Thapong Visual Arts Centre partnered with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees to expose artistic talents at Dukwi Refugee Camp for the livelihood of the refugee artists.