Arts are the "best option" to make a difference

“The first thing [that appealed to me] is that it is unique. Make Art / Stop AIDS, the fact that we’re using art is very different. I had been to some sessions about HIV and sexual and reproductive health, but nobody used art,” Khumbo said.

Khumbo is a student at Chancellor College in Zomba, which is also where her family is from, and while she has always enjoyed watching dramas and singers, she had never really participated in creating art of her own.

“Usually, those sessions were boring. This is kind of entertaining at the same time, so I wanted to a part of such a project,” she said.

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However, even without an arts background, Khumbo felt that picking up the techniques was easy. She joined the other MASA Squad members for a training at the ArtGlo offices, and the friendly and comfortable atmosphere melted away any nervousness she might have had. And while it was the arts that initially inspired her to take part, being able to share her story is what excited her the most.

“When I entered the project, it turned out that we had to create all our pieces, so it was our stories,” she said. “That was very exciting for me. As much as I didn’t know about art, I had stuff I wanted to express: stories about my friends, my peers. Maybe I didn’t have the platform to express them [before].”

As exciting and appealing as the creative aspect of the MASA: Youth project were to her, she had no idea that the arts could be used to spread social messages. But, it didn’t take long for Khumbo to be able to see the power that the arts can have on people.

“After what we had done, had done performances, you could see that we really made a difference there, with the people out there,” she said.

Khumbo built on her understanding of drama, music, and poetry and learned about how to use frozen images to tell a story and how to involve an audience in the performance. It was difficult to incorporate that aspect at first, but because she was a creator and owner of the art, it became easy.

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“We got a lot of amazing feedback. We had campus interventions, and at first we thought about gender and when it comes to consent, we thought we were all on the same page. We all knew what consent is, but we got very different feedback,” she said. “Not everyone had the thoughts we had and at the end of the project, they got our perspective and people are implementing it now. Especially the consent part.”

Now, after using the arts to share about gender and sexual and reproductive health, Khumbo is an arts advocate.

“I think it’s the best option now, for the youth these days. It relates to them more. They enjoy it while we are doing it. And most organisations just sit them down in a group and then have a Power Point to present what they want to present. But nobody tries to get to them on the same level, which art does,” Khumbo said. “I think it’s the best option now.”