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Art therapy exhibition set to express migrant and refugee pupils’ pain

Objectives the exhibition is to generate psychosocial support for migrant and refugee learners in hopes of human mobility in South Africa. SUPPLIED

Objectives the exhibition is to generate psychosocial support for migrant and refugee learners in hopes of human mobility in South Africa. SUPPLIED

Published Oct 22, 2021


Cape Town - Taking you on a journey of resilience through hardship, the Africa Unite School Club (AUSC) will be showcasing works of art therapy by young refugees and migrants who felt marginalised during the pandemic.

The artwork will be presented by 15 young participants from African countries such as Malawi, Congo-Brazzaville, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The exhibition will feature paintings and photographs by young migrants, giving them an opportunity to talk on the broader issue of youth, migration and identity.

Africa Unite spokesperson Nikelwa Mqwabalala explained that migration was caused by a number of push-and-pull factors that include better living conditions, political stability, access to employment and education, but sadly, migrants who represent 3 -7% of the population overall arrive in South Africa to harsh conditions.

“Migrant learners also have to deal with how immigration is constructed as a problem and how immigrants are treated. This spills over to xenophobic bullying in schools, exclusive learning languages in classes, pressure to adopt a dominant culture, safety and over all ‘maintenance of peace’,” said Mqwabalala.

Early this year, AUSC hosted an anti-xenophobia school summit with the theme "Branches of the same tree," where 63 participants from 20 schools in the Western Cape, KZN, and Gauteng engaged on issues around migration and xenophobia.

Migrant pupils shared how they felt displaced not only geographically but also in terms of identity in South Africa, they shared how adopting the dominant culture had left them lacking in their own, and making it incredibly difficult to belong anywhere.

“It is with this realisation that the Africa Unite School Club in partnership with Estefany San Andres H started the Project Migration, Art and Resilience Therapy for young refugees and migrants.

“The objectives of this programme were among others to generate psychosocial support mechanisms for the youth in the situation of human mobility in South Africa, through artistic techniques of expression and art therapy. The therapy sessions also help migrant/refugee learners in the process of self-knowledge and identity construction for empowerment and personal development,” said Mqwabalala.

Lückhoff High School learner Prisca Manzambi she said she wished the exhibition to be an eye-opener to show that migrants were people and had feelings too.

“I would like the guest to relate with the story and the art. I wish they can understand that it is not easy living in a country that doesn't understand your culture and your background. Where you feel like the odd one out because everybody shares the same culture and yours is different.

“The art work will express how migrant learners lose their culture because they are not taught more about where they came from and that makes it hard for them to understand who they are and what their cultural background is,” said Manzambi.

The exhibition will be next Saturday, at 1 Batten Lane and Main Road Mowbray Cape Town, 7705 (Bertha’s House Centre) from 11am and end at 12pm.

The event hopes to gather learners, parents, teachers, civil society, youth, NGO representatives and Government officials to come together and understand their plight.

To attend please send email to: [email protected]

Weekend Argus