Showcasing creativity beyond borders exhibition at the Tongogara Refugee Camp.

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In April 2016, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in partnership with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) hosted a week long visual art workshop for children at Tongogara Refugee Camp. The art camp was a success in terms of interest generated.

In April 2016, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in partnership with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) hosted a week long visual art workshop for children at Tongogara Refugee Camp. The art camp was a success in terms of interest generated.
In order for the project to take root and lure funding for sustainability, the idea of an exhibition during Refugee Day was mooted in order to showcase the identified talent to dignitaries who were to throng the camp during international refugee day, with the hope of getting funding, marketing and linkages that would help the artists to realise their potential and enhance their livelihoods.
On the 29th of June a team from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe headed to the Tongogara Refugee camp for the July 1 Refugee Day Commemorations with an exhibition under the theme “Showcasing Creativity Beyond Borders”. The team was comprised of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Mutare Regional Manager, Elizabeth Muusha; Education Officer, Akim Nyakudya, the Exhibition Officer, Walter Ndundu and Curator of Education, Tawanda Nyamangara.
The exhibition took place on the 1st of July, it was aimed at showcasing the artistic talent and potential of the artistic community residing in the camp and creating linkages for assimilating the artists in the camp, into the main stream arts economy of the country for sustainable livelihoods improvement through exposure to many dignitaries who have graced the occasion of the International Refugee Day at Tongogara.
The exhibition was graced by the Director of UNHCR and the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Services, Honourable Engineer T. Matangaidze who were highly impressed by the artworks and wished that such workshop to continue inorder to foster the growth of our art industry. British Council was also represented. The team have helped to put up a professional visual art exhibition for International Refugee Day as it was just a day event.
“We believe that art which is true to life cannot be reduced to the status of a political agenda or ideology, said Mr Nyakudya. “Our intention is simply to enable refugees to communicate to the public in their own voice and to show their talents through art, which creates a bridge between them and the community.”
The exhibition was a tool that had and will allow Refugees to tell the world, in a universal language, their desires, their dreams, their lives. It is no secret that art can be used as a powerful advocacy tool to communicate stories, but art can also provide a vehicle for self-development and personal expression, in addition to the numerous benefits of using art as a therapeutic technique.
With the second phase of the project involving a moving exhibition, the team spoke to the artist about the need to produce high quality work for the exhibition. The team explained that by participating, one does not necessarily sale but it was the exposure that would help in the long term and that this was meant to alloy expectations of no sales.
“Art as a common language, has the ability to bring different communities together,” said Mr Nyakudya. “It is our hope that the exhibition will generate interest among the arts community within and outside the camp and that the many dignitaries that have graced the event will be more seriously engaged in the arts and raise incomes for self-sustenance for the artist who have participated.”
The exhibition was inclusive, involving all interested artists from the camp.A total number of 16 artworks were hung and artworks which they were creating as well such as beads and cushions. Genres included drawing, painting, textiles, crafts, mixed media and other 3 dimensional works.
According to Tawanda Nyamangara the exhibition was carried out professionally so as to stimulate visual art culture in the community. Positive signs of support for the arts in education were visible in the work produced by all the individuals who participated and this work ethic was also present in the way the artworks were hung.
Nyamangara added that the exhibition had a relaxed atmosphere that was supportive and nurturing, the refugees had a strong understanding of the initiative as they are artists whom already have hope towards a renewal of the platform. The exhibiting refugees aspire for an exhibition that would be more vibrant with trimmings of a travelling nature that would be a microcosm of their circumstances.
The exhibition has unearthed awesome artistic talent within the Refugee Camp and that these skills need to be exposed and nourished in order for the refugees to produce more artworks that are marketable and income generating.
Walter Ndundu, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe's Exhibitions Officer felt that the infusion of  Showcasing Creativity Beyond Borders into the everyday lives of Tongogara Refugee Camp served as a ray of hope for the tenants. “The exhibition was a success because most of the artists who participated in the exhibition, and those who were not part were very happy and I think next time we are going to do such a workshop the house is going to be full,”
In this exhibition's case, it is our belief that the creative industry can promote messages and actions with a positive results.  Alternative opinions on subjects are a natural form of expression, however, there should be no limited borders dividing the way talent and messages are conveyed. Art has a missionary meaning to make humanity and planet earth a better place, shifting understandings of respect, tolerance, equality, compassion and closes the gaps between communities in tumult.
According to Nyakudya the exhibition is expected to open up new networks and markets outside the refugee camp for artists and foster more involvement in creative and entrepreneurial activities among the youth in and outside the camp. Showcasing Creativity Beyond Borders is expected to improve the livelihood of the displaced artist as a result of synergies created with the various organizations involved, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe included!
Participants seemed highly motivated and eager to participate in the forthcoming August Holiday Art Camp, which precedes preparations for the travelling exhibition. The exhibition is going to move from Mutare to Harare, then on to Bulawayo.

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