When refugees from Africa’s conflicted Great Lakes region seek peace in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, they often find that they cannot leave, an intro of UK’s The Guardian’s, Graters and guitars: making a living in Malawi’s refugee prison reads.
This opening statement rings true for many as Dzaleka has become a “permanent” refugee camp.
So out of boredom and to escape the daily challenges of the confined life in a refugee camp, six young boys came up with an idea that will define their lives forever.
In 2014, the six formed an all-boy dance group Forus Dance Crew to while away, little did they know it will lead them to stardom.
Forus is made up of lads mostly from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The group comprises Ally Bull, 21, Toussaint Kid, 21, Princo BJR, 19, Allan Bulldor Bonane, 21, Grace Marmu, 20 and dance leader Nellson Deogratias, who is 18.
The name Forus is an acronym for force, united and success.
The crew’s dance moves that combine, thumping of the foot, acrobatic moves and rhythmic twisting of the body to the sound of music and dramatisation have been described by many as unique, fresh “and something they have never seen before”.
The group is an overnight sensation and a toast of town due to the unique dance routines.
Its growing popularity and profile of the dance means local artists cannot afford to ignore Forus.
“Their broadening visibility on the entertainment scene reckons that they are a class apart, bringing on the table something that has never been seen before,” one local artist says.
In the limelight
So far, their dance moves have seen them perform during high profile events at Malawi’s largest entertainment Mecca, the Bingu International Conference Centre (Bicc). And their happy feet, have taken them to work with some of the most reputable musical names in the country.
They have featured in music videos of Hazel Mak’s Jaiva, Zimatele, Malawi and Sitigonja by Zathu Band, Gwamba’s work on Dan featuring Emm Q, Musiye by Dan Lu, Janta’s Wangongole, YDKM by VJ Ice and Titaketake by Sangie.
Forus Dance Crew also caught public eye when they entertained fans during the Lake of Stars (LoS) set it off event in Zomba. They have curtain-raised Ugandan comedian Anne Kansiime’s show during her second visit to Malawi.
The group lit up Tumaini festival, Zathu Band launch, Fusion festival, Gwamba’s Jesus is my boss album launch, Ufulu festival, among others high profile shows.
“We noted that amongst us we share a common passion which is dancing,” band leader Deogratias explains. “The kind of life here in the camp is not the most ideal. Ninety-seven percent of youth here are taking different type of drugs and many are at the centre of many criminal activities.
“We realised that there is a way we can utilise the power of our passion to a positive effect. We did not want to end up like most of our peers so we thought of forming this dance crew to keep ourselves busy and also offer entertainment to people.”
Art for a living
Members of Forus have been in the refugee camp for over five year now.
The six have managed to complete their secondary school education and are currently involved doing artworks away from dancing.
The group is using their skill and prominence to good use by aiding in countering the moral decadence issue among the youth in the camp.
IN THE MEDIA