Q&A: Hope Azeda: taking Rwandan theatre to the next level

Briefly tell us about yourself I am the Director and founder of Mashirika Theatre Company. My father was the late Norman Semana while my mother is called Beatrice Semana.

Briefly tell us about yourself

I am the Director and founder of Mashirika Theatre Company. My father was the late Norman Semana while my mother is called Beatrice Semana.

Due to the history that many Rwandans share, I was born in Western Uganda.  I attended Mengo primary school, then Namasagali College for high school and finally joined Makerere University.

I am the second lastborn in a family of three girls and eight boys.

What was your childhood dream? Are you living it?

 Like any child my dream was to become a teacher or a nurse. But since I was staying with my sister, who was a nurse, I would sometimes see the pain injured people underwent. My hopes of becoming a nurse ended there and then and my dream of becoming a teacher never really took off.

I started discovering my talent in art in me when I joined Namasagali College.

What is Mashirika and what does it aim to achieve?

Mashirika is a performing art and media company. Its aim is to perform art and music drama.

The main focus of Mashirika is to create a society that respects art as a profession. Many people tend to think that accountants, doctors and nurses, for example, are the only professionals. They forget artists. We want to create awareness by changing people’s mindset about art.

What are the challenges you face as the head of Mashirika?

The main challenges we have are the people we are working with. Many of them don’t see art as a profession. When they give us work, they often also try to tell us how exactly it should be done. It’s like going to the hospital and instructing the doctor how you should be treated and the medicine you need to take.

Another big challenge we have is the lack of theatre facilities in Rwanda.

What do you think are the greatest challenges that Rwandan women face?

The good thing in Rwanda is that women are supported in every developmental aspect. But the biggest challenge is still in people’s attitudes; they think that women are not capable of doing this or that.

When I came to Rwanda, people would come to me asking “who is Hope” and when I told them that I was the one they would tell me how they thought that I was a man.

Women should stop seeing themselves as incapable people. If we attend the same schools as our brothers and husbands, why should it become difficult for us to do what they are doing? If they can do it, so can we as well.

What are your future plans?

My dream is to see Mashirika keep growing.

What is your message to Rwandan women?

Honour begins at home. If you are too busy to have home, then where are you? Home is not just a house, people and other property.

Rather, home is that mutual understanding of each other and the care you give each other. If you don’t have honour at home you can’t have it outside.

Business is not doing what others are doing but what you think can benefit you and your family and the nation at large. So women should wake up and do the best they can in everything they do.

Women shouldn’t be like baby birds, just waiting to be fed because we don’t own men. We just meet them and we start a journey together, which is a 50-50 input.

What is your current relationship?

I am married with two lovely daughters. The little spare time we have we share it with our children. We never send the driver to pick our children unless we are all outside the country or upcountry because we want our children to see that closeness that is between us as a family.

How do you spend your free time?

There is nothing as fun as working on a piece of theatre with the other members of Mashirika. Apart from that I don’t have a problem spending a weekend with my family on the shores of Lake Kivu because my children are water addicts.

If there is no time to go to Lake Kivu, I don’t mind simply sipping some African tea and having enough time to rest.


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