Feature: Kenya's second largest refugee camp becomes melting pot for artistic talent and integration

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-08 20:48:24|Editor: xuxin
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KAKUMA, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Moses Omar and his childhood friend Ismail Jama relished a thunderous ululation from the audience after belting out a captivating hit during a singing contest held at Kenya's second largest refugee camp of Kakuma late Friday.

The rhythm and blues (R&B) duet headlined the fifth edition of Kakuma's Got Talent competition that sought to showcase the abundant artistic talent possessed by youngsters from strife-torn neighboring countries who live at the sprawling camp located in Kenya's north western county of Turkana.

Omar and Ismail are originally from Somalia but have lived in Kakuma refugee camp since childhood where they forged a strong bond thanks to shared ancestry and passion for music.

"We left Somalia with our parents because of the violence but have found a sojourn here in Kakuma where our dream of becoming international artists is slowly being realized," 26-year-old Omar told journalists on the sidelines of peace center where Kakuma's Got Talent 2018 edition was held.

Popularly known as the Two Brothers in the local entertainment scene, Omar and Ismail have boundless energy, passion and optimism that has inspired the upcoming generation of refugee artists who reside in Kakuma.

The singing duo revealed they have benefited from benevolence of successful Kenyan hip hop artists who have mentored them while inviting them to headline concerts in Nairobi and other big towns.

"We are delighted to have such a devoted fan base within Kakuma and other parts of Kenya. Our livelihood is purely dependent on music. We compose lyrics that seek to inspire young refugees to dream amid setbacks that hover around their lives," said 23-year-old Jama.

Hundreds of young refugee performing artists ranging from musicians, dancers, models and comedians turned up for the fifth edition of Kakuma's Got Talent show whose overriding goal is to give them a new lease of life and facilitate their integration into host communities.

Aza Nsabimana, a 23-year-old R&B artist who is originally from Burundi has found her voice thanks to a singing career that has exposed her to new frontiers.

The mother of one, who became an accomplished R&B artist two years ago, has composed songs that spread the message of love, peace, unity and compassion.

"My desire is to let the entire world discover that refugees are endowed with talents that can be harnessed to transform humanity. I have performed in refugee camps and other formal settings and the audience has been very receptive to my songs," said Nsabimana whose stage name is Mlay.

Her vocals and gyrating moves on stage electrified the young audience as the fifth edition of Kakuma's Got Talent competition cruised to the final stage amid display of artistic prowess by young refugees.

Victoria Goretti, an 18-year-old upcoming R&B artist from Uganda who settled in Kakuma refugee camp with her aunt seven years ago, said she felt honored to be given a chance to perform at the annual talent show.

"This is my first time to participate in a singing competition and I feel privileged to meet big names in rap and hip hop whose inspiration was behind my desire to take up singing," said Goretti.

"We are lucky as refugees to have an opportunity to showcase our talents to the rest of the world. Music and dance have a healing power to the dispossessed," She added.

The sprawling Kakuma refugee camp that was established in 1992 is home to over 186,000 refugees from 19 different nationalities while majority are from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Young people aged 12-25 years old who comprise 36 percent of the population inside Kenya's second largest refugee camp, are at the heart of ongoing integration efforts spearheaded by multilateral agencies.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners have since 2015 rallied behind an initiative to nurture artistic talents among the Kakuma youth as a means to provide them with alternative sources of livelihood and help them assimilate with local hosts.

So far, more than 700 young people living in Kakuma refugee camp have undergone auditions for various genres of performing arts including music, modelling, photography and dancing.

The fifth edition of Kakuma talent show stood out in terms of high number of participants as well as sophistication, glamour and elegance.

Chang Kuoth, a 20-year-old high school student who fled turmoil in South Sudan with his mother and siblings, was in his element when he was invited to perform dancehall reggae tune in front of an ecstatic audience.

"I felt relieved as the audience sang along to my tune and look forward to composing new songs that convey the message of peace, love and solidarity to fellow refugees." said Kuoth.