Art has the power to change the world. It’s based on this fact that Wilson Chimwenda, a University of Dar es Salaam art and theatre student decided to make a contribution in society by using art to empower girls living in poor conditions.
He is doing so in collaboration with the New Hope for Girls organisation, which helps marginalised girls, who have experienced violence and those living in poor conditions. Chimwenda believes art has the power to change the lives of these girls for the better and offer them hope for a bright future.
Chimwenda learnt about New Hope for Girls organisation when his dance group visited the centre for a performance. He was impressed by the way the girls were living at the centre and how well they were being taken care of.
He decided to volunteer with the organisation and introduced dance to the girls as a way of empowering them through the art.
New Hope for Girls is situated in Kimara, Dar es Salaam. The centre was founded by Consoler Wilbert, who is popularly known as Mama. The organisation’s origin is fundamentally linked to the personal life journey of its founder. Consoler experienced domestic violence during her childhood. Having been raised in a poor family, attending school was a struggle and when she was 11, her aunt wanted to marry her off.
Consoler overcame these challenges and as her name suggests, she vowed to give consolation to girls going through hardships in life. Her organisation aims to promote girls’ social and economic wellbeing.
Chimwenda says he experienced something unique at the centre, which as he put its; “The centre is using love to heal wounded souls.”
The fact that the girls are living in a better place shows that the organisation’s intention is to truly give them a better life and a foundation for a bright future, Chimwenda believes.
The centre is home to 58 girls from different backgrounds. It also supports those from poor families by providing them with basic needs while they continue living with their families as long as they are safe there.
The centre organises programmes to equip the girls with life skills. For example, they are practically taught about financial matters through the income generation programme. External contributors are engaged in these programmes to raise their awareness on different topics, including domestic violence and sexual and reproductive health among others. They also receive individual and group counselling, which sometimes involves their parents as well.
This arrangement inspired Chimwenda to be a part of the girls’ healing process and pathway to a better future.
He discovered during his first visit at the centre that the girls liked different kinds of art such as songs, paintings and movies.
Thus he came up with the idea to introduce the art programme through which he aims to decorate the daily life of these girls. He believes art can empower women by giving them knowledge and new perspectives on society.
The programme includes a number of projects where he invites different performers to expose the girls to different arts and visions.
Performances include dancing, singing, drawing and acting, through which the young girls learn about leadership, environment and gender issues.
They are introduced to these multiple notions through different artistic workshops.
Delphina Danstan, 15, enjoys singing. “Singing brings me happiness and allows me to express myself,” she tells Success. She says the programme has opened opportunities for them. “We learn alot of things that we are not taught at school.” Some of the girls are even planning to pursue art careers. Agnes Ainekisha for example says; “I would like to be a gospel teacher.”
Recently, the girls got the opportunity to tour Bagamoyo where they enjoyed African art performances at a festival held at the Tasuba College of arts. It was an opportunity for them to discover their artistic interests.
Chimwenda is convinced that art can be life changing for these children. The 23-year-old student plans to extend his programme to primary and secondary schools, where he says art exposure is lacking.
“Art is about beauty, truth and diversity,” says Chimwenda, and this is exactly what he aims to promote to children. He wishes to spread love, as he believes art is a way to communicate it. These girls are symbolising the future of Tanzania, and their art exposure represents a way to preserve the cultural wealth of the country. Art has an emancipatory function, allowing them to see new perspectives of the world but also their own stories and identities.