Turquoise Harmony Institute award-winning concerts changing the refugee narrative

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This August the Turquoise Harmony Institute (THI) will once again bring hope, awareness and advocacy to this country’s and the continent’s refugees with their third award-winning concert at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, on Friday 12 August 2022 from 7pm to 9.30pm. Some of South Africa’s top acts will be featured at the event, which will be both live and live streamed online.

THI aims to raise awareness of the plight of the numerous people on the African Continent and around the world who have been chased from their homes, forgotten and misplaced by others, and to celebrate those who superhumanly overcame the challenges of being forced to be a stranger in another’s country. 

The concert will feature leading artists including Msaki, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, PJ Powers, Thandi Ntuli, Pops Mohamed, Neill Solomon, Rocksteady Dub, Bienvenue Nseka and Lebo Mashile. During the evening leading South Africa composer Neill Solomon’s new song Homeland, produced by JB Arthur at the Flame Studios at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, will be publicly launched.  

“We want people to think  ‘what if I was in their shoes, what would life look like? Could I face the sometimes insurmountable challenges and daily struggles they face?’ With these concerts our aim is to reframe the refugee experience, shifting the debate away from refugee statistics and refocusing on the attitudes of those who may not be sure who refugees even are, creating connections through common experiences and increased understanding,” says Ayhan Cetin, Executive Director of THI.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is giving the world a glimpse of the devastation that can be brought to families and their homes by powers beyond their control. Exposed to violence, the elements and criminals, including human traffickers, previously productive and healthy citizens found themselves at the coalface of humanity’s evils. However, Ukraine is not alone in a refugee crisis and many have experienced the horrors of conflict. Often out of the media and as such out of public consciousness, Africa has faced numerous conflicts, in Rwanda, Congo, Uganda, Zambia, and even South Africa. 

Having come out of apartheid, South Africa committed to a new era of humanity with Nelson Mandela and celebrated diversity under Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s rainbow nation. Sadly, our efforts did not last, and to other Africans South Africa has become known as a country of intolerance. 

For THI this was an unacceptable legacy to promote, for our nation and our generation. They began to work to raise awareness about the challenges of refugees and other forcibly displaced people, by inspiring people through the arts. This culminated in their first concert for refugees in 2019 and again, but online, during the lockdown in 2020.

The 2019 concert set a new precedent for social justice workers around the world and THI was awarded the Pioneers in SDGs Project Stakeholders Award at the UNGA Conference in New York. Through awareness and funds raised THI was able to start various projects including  the “Social and Economic Integration of Refugee Women in South Africa” in which French-speaking refugees and migrated women forcibly displaced from their home countries were given English classes. Following the language classes THI added weeks of skills development classes. Secondly, THI partnered with the Three2Six project in different ways which provides undocumented children an opportunity to continue their studies until grade six and for grades seven and eight.

The second concert was held on December 10 2020, on World Human Rights Day and was live streamed to audiences around the world. An overwhelming number of people tuned into various social media platforms to enjoy the music and offer support to refugees and other forcibly displaced people in South Africa and around the world. THI received positive feedback from government, private organisations, institutions and individuals from different walks of society. We feel grateful for the South Africans’ approach to this issue and for uniting toward the same goal.

Partners of the concert are the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Amnesty International, Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, Universal Rights Association, Wits University, Flame Studios, Horizon Educational Trust, Mail & Guardian, Time to Care, Scalabrini Centre, J.T Communication, Music in Africa, SAMRO, Concerts SA and Refugee Social Services.

Tickets for the show are R200 and the amount raised will be used towards helping refugees in South Africa through respected charities such as Gift of the Givers, Three to Six schools, and our own programmes at the Turquoise Harmony Institute.

Turquoise Harmony Institute (THI)

Started in 2006, Turquoise Harmony Institute (THI) pursues the goal of fostering relations among different faith and cultural traditions to contribute to the wellbeing of humanity. We encourage and facilitate exchange of views and experiences between different parts of the society and engage in activities that are aimed at stimulating critical thinking and analysis of affairs affecting the lives of all people. We engaged in many activities in our short history such as conferences, seminars, iftar dinners, intercultural trips, dialogue awards. The aims of these activities include promoting dialogue, tolerance, and understanding among the peoples of South Africa and the world by fostering universal values such as love , tolerance, democracy, human rights and justice. We strongly believe that the future of humanity should be built on a culture of coexistence, dialogue, and tolerance. Differences should be seen as a strength and that which can serve as multiple opportunities for building an inclusive world. 

The plight of refugees and other forcibly displaced people has been close to our hearts for many years. People who have been forced from their homes by political, economic violence, or climate change, fled their homelands, and were driven to the limited mercy of other nations fall among the most exposed and vulnerable in the world. 

THI aims to create awareness about the social, economic, etc. challenges of the refugees and other forcibly displaced people especially post the Covid-19 pandemic, by inspiring people through music. Misinformation and lack of awareness about the issues affecting refugees and people seeking asylum are key factors leading to negative opinions of these groups, which ultimately cause xenophobia. THI aims to counteract this misinformation and contribute to social cohesion against xenophobia attacks in South Africa.

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