The art of slum activism in Zimbabwe
The space for civil society in Zimbabwe is shrinking
In many countries across the globe, the space for civil society is shrinking. With brutal force, autocratic governments are dismantling youth led resistance. When Robert Mugabe formally stepped down as the president of Zimbabwe, people went to street, creating a vibrant mass of careful optimism that things could finally change for the better.
However, there has been very little to be optimistic about ever since the new elected president Mnangawa – the crocodile – took over. Under the new regime political violence, especially against young people has become the order of the day. For the youth of Zimbabwe it is both very difficult and dangerous to advocate government for change through conventional ways of political activism.
Therefore, young activist are now exploring new and safer ways to advocate government for change. This includes using arts, culture and music as ways of creating awareness and support around the challenges young people face.
The goals of the project
The overall goal of the project is to improve the wellbeing of young people living in slums, which is one of the most marginalised groups in Zimbabwe. To achieve this, the project pursues three concrete goals: 1) The first is to mobilise young people in slums to become advocate of change; 2) The second is to change the negative narrative surrounding youth and slum communities; 3) The third is to create political awareness around the challenges young people face in slums, and gain support around their development priorities.
Art as a tool for development
The project's core approach is culture and arts. By working with local artist the goal is to inspire young people to become advocates for change. Through the development of a cultural centre in the slum, and by undertaking festivals and artistic place making initiatives , we hope to create a positive image around what slums stand for, and; through the language of music, poetry and theatre we hope to create awareness of what the challenges are in slums and at the same time inspire government to cooperate and support young people in their quest to create change.
Working directly with young artist from slums
The project is designed together with House of Arts Association, which is a voluntary youth based organisation in Zimbabwe that consists of artist and activist coming directly from slum communities. House of Arts Association has a lot of experience in facilitating events and creating dialogue with government in a constructive and non-confrontational way.