Following up on Jake’s guest blog on youth helping other youth through the arts, I’m posting a video clip showing a group of Tariro students in the low-income neighborhood of Epworth. Here, our students perform a song they composed about HIV/AIDS. For many of Tariro students, traditional music, dance, and poetry constitute important means of self-expression. In a society where HIV/AIDS is often stigmatized, music helps young people to openly speak about the disease, and to share their experiences as individuals living in communities deeply affected by the virus.
Additionally, music, dance, poetry, and drama are ideal activities for organizations working with youth in low-resource settings, as students can engage with music and dance for little or no cost. Tariro’s marimba and dance program costs around $150 per month, benefiting 15 of our students who participate on an ongoing basis, as well as other drop-in participants. Our program has largely paid for itself, through the production of an album of field recordings of our students performing, which we sell at benefit events in the US. The album is available over mail order as well- contact us through the website to request a copy.
Finally, activities such as drama, music, poetry, and dance encourage confidence, creativity, and self-expression, which are especially important for young women. Our students report that learning about culture through music and dance has also assisted them in school, particularly in classes about Shona language and history. As in the United States school system, however, there are often debates in the nonprofit world about whether or not organizations should fund this type of “extracurricular” activity, or stick to the basics, trying to extend essential services to the greatest numbers of those in need. My personal opinion is that the additional awareness we are able to raise about our programs, both in Zimbabwe and in the US, makes this type of program well worth it! Do readers have personal experiences or other perspectives to share about working toward peace and justice through sharing artistic expression?