In celebration of National Youth Week, SBS teamed up with the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) and Department of Social Services (DSS) to give young people the chance to share their story on national television. 15- to 24-year olds across the country were invited to submit a video entry about their unique identity. After several rounds of judging, five winners were chosen to attend a week-long filmmaking and storytelling workshop in Melbourne with FYA. At the end of the workshop, each winner produced a short film about their story. Watch it below.
Let us introduce you to Mfaume. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo 18 years ago, Mfaume fled war and spent a large portion of his life in a refugee camp in Malawi before settling in Australia in the Northern Territory. He also really loves to make music.
He’s one of five young Australians who took part in the National Youth Week storytelling workshop earlier in the year and he’s also one of the most delightful human beings I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
When you meet Mfaume and shake his hand, you can’t help but notice there’s something about him that radiates. He’s a reserved person. But his genuine, considered and caring personality is so heart-warming that when Mfaume does speak to you, you know it’s going to be an important conversation; you pay attention.
With seven members of his family in the refugee camp with him, food, shelter and clothing were scarce. Houses in the camp were often affected by the elements, including rain, wind and cooking fires.
Mfaume speaks Swahili, and some of his mother’s and father’s languages. In Malawi, however, he studied English as well as the national language of Malawi, Chichewa. They were tough subjects and having between 60 and 80 other young refugees in the classroom made his education even harder. Mfaume recalls, “sometimes the noise of the students in the classroom made it impossible to hear what the teacher was trying to say. The teacher would get angry and often told the students to go home and come back tomorrow.”
But there was something that was able to take Mfaume, in some way, away from the refugee camp and away from his troubles. Music.
He observed the people of Malawi making their own music, and could see the joy it brought to their faces and the way it enriched their lives. This inspired hope in Mfaume that he too could have a more enjoyable life through music. He described the decision to begin playing as something he hoped would make him feel “happy in my heart”.
Mfaume began spending his time in the camp building drum kits and learning to play. The drum kits were simply strung together from plastic bottles, metal tins and nails, rope and string, glass, wood and wire — whatever he could find. But to Mfaume, it didn’t matter. For him, drumming took him to a place where he could forget what was going on around him.
He soon discovered his drumming didn’t just bring happiness to himself, but it brought joy to everyone in the camp. They performed traditional dances that reminded Mfaume of his early childhood in the Congo. And this was when he learned how music can change lives.
Mfaume recalls how he felt when he would play in the camp, “when I play I forget the hard things, I forget the hard life. I forget that I don't have food and we are all hungry. I feel happy. My thoughts are with the music.”
Now Mfaume lives in in the Northern Territory, where he continues to play the drums in his church group and at school.
For Mfaume, being in Australia allows him to open up his mind to opportunity. “In the future I can do this, or do that or do anything. I can open up my mind and I feel like I know what to do. I feel happy.”
He hopes his film can do for others what drumming does for him. He wants people to feel encouraged, and wants them to remain hopeful that the bad times will get better.
When Mfaume was asked what he would change in the world, he replied without any hesitation. With a smile he said, “it’s my music. I just want people to listen to my music. I can change the world with my music.”
Words: Samuel Danby
Mentor Director: Nick Ralph
Mentor Director of Photography: Isabel Darling
Photographer: Emily Franke
Set Liaison: Madhab ‘Kozzi’ Kharel