Charles Lipanda Matenga, a young poet and writer, who was born in DR Congo, raised orphan and spent life in a refugee camp, narrates his story
My name is Charles Lipanda Matenga. I was born and raised orphan at Rwenena Village, Uvira, Sud-Kivu, DR Congo in 2005, 2nd July. My mother was Sada Magdaleine. I knew nothing about my father. However my mother died when I was 5 years old.
Both of my parents worked in the farm to raise us all, my sisters and brothers. They were also animal keepers. Life was a gold under the ground. No one knew that my parents would one day disappear like dust in the air. Leaving no trace on the wet pavements. Nor finger prints on the sand were seen. For they all vanished like solute into solvent.
After losing both of my parents at the very young age, I had to leave our village with my sister, to the city, Uvira. She started taking care of us. She was just 15 years when she gave birth to her girl child. She severely underwent child labor and child abuse from her inconsiderate husband for us to survive. Early in the morning, she used to go to Lake Tanganyika, the home for the haves and have-nots, taking sands, gravels and stones and carry them to a miles distant place to be sold. She did all this for us to go to school and at least have something to eat for the stomach to be silent. The world seemed to be the little hole of the beasts.
As I grew up, philosophy and sociology became my strength when my body had no water. However I did not continue my studies, since we fled to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi. I could not speak any language in a new world. Everything became strange in familiar lands. I became a wanderer of the universe. No food to eat. Initially, I regarded refugee camp as the grave of the dreams. I lost the taste of my future. Committing suicide was the only solution to my endless challenges I faced day by day.
As I kept on surviving the violent storms of life, I gave my soul another chance. To survive, to die or to live was not less as the darkness in my eyes. I started learning English and became fond of poetry. I started writing poetry in 2021 and gave it full time.
I came up with an anthology called Our Voice Is Our Catalyst Anthology (2022) with Salvador CapBic, USA, as the co-author with other international poets around the world. In the mid 2023 Ruth Takodwa (refugee) and I started working on Being Refugee Wasn’t a Choice Anthology which is to be published earlier 2024. I have written a lot of poems and which have been published in international magazines and websites.
I am a published poet, writer, translator, editor, author and performer. I have performed multi festivals, national and international. A good example is a World Poetry Conference 2023 India from which I was conferred a certificate of ‘Master of Creative Consciousness’, United Nations Day Commemoration 2023 and launch of national youth police 2023-2028 Malawi.
I am the founder and president of African Youth Artistic Poetry-AYAP where orphaned children from Dzaleka Refugee Camp are trained poetry and become version of themselves. In discovering their dreams, we expose them to new talents every day. I am also the organizer of Our Talents, Our Advocacy Festival which aims at bringing joy to hopeless refugees. Besides, this story made me the winner of 3rd World Storytelling Championship 2023 representing the whole Malawi on 4th place worldwide. Henceforth, UNHCR and UN have been influencing me positively on my future. Nonetheless, I am living a tremendous life here in Dzaleka refugee Camp, Malawi.
In closing, with life experience, I finally realized that refugee camp is not a grave of dreams but the newest beginning of a new life where one has to thrive to live. Home is everywhere. Wherever you are, you can still do what you are destined to do.