Author Tafadzwa Muchenje
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Curated by mandla rae, Freedom of Movement? is an exhibition and digital performance exploring artists’ responses to the idea of ‘freedom of movement’. It was presented as part of LIBERTY EU and featured in the online festival, Journeys Festival International 2020. Stand and be Counted Theatre is one of the organisations involved and following on from its show, Where We Began, the company presents a new film exploring Tafadzwa Muchenje’s experiences trying to apply for a spousal visa during a lockdown. In this blog post, Muchenje sheds light on the intentions behind this film and why examining the UK immigration system is more important than ever.
My name is Tafadzwa Muchenje, I’m working with SBC Theatre to create ‘Where We Are’ – a new documentary film that tracks my experience of the immigration system and real world impact of hostile environment policies here in the UK.
When I was 6 months old my family moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa. When I was 12 we moved to the UK. I’m 25 now and I’m still in a status limbo. ‘Where We Are’ not only captures the vulnerability and difficulties that I’ve once again had to face during my immigration application throughout national lockdown but delves deeper into the mental health issues that can be the result of trying to stay within the country.
I want this work to show that immigration is an ongoing process that remains and impacts your everyday life. It lives strongly within you until you are either a British citizen or you’ve left the country. Even when you think you’re safe, people fall victim to the hostile environment the UK government have created.
We knew that this was the right time to make this film as not only was I going through an application but we were seeing first-hand how COVID rocked the whole nation, including immigrants and sanctuary seekers. We watched as the government provided support for workers and businesses, while immigrants were once again left in limbo as applications halted to a stop and visas expired. It wasn’t even a case of feeling like we simply didn’t matter as much, but a sense that the government had forgotten we were even here at all.
‘Where We Are’ digs deep into my personal journey and the impact migration has had on every aspect of mine and my family’s lives. It reveals the scars left behind that are continually reopened with each application and the effect of ‘othering’ at every step of a bureaucratic, uncaring system that holds your life in the balance. I’m so proud of this project and although it’s never easy to make oneself vulnerable for all to see, I know that I have a community that cares for me and fights for me. This is my no-holds-barred attempt to make sure that no-one new to the UK is made to feel forgotten or ignored – the more of us that know how damaging the UK system is the better chance we have of changing it for the better.
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