An actress, film director, saxophonist and contemporary dancer, Carole Karemera has appeared in many internationally acclaimed film, theatre, television, and dance productions since 1996. Born to Rwandan parents in Brussels, the co-founder and director of the Ishyo Arts Centre is known for initiating innovative projects between Rwandans and international artists. She spoke to Moses Opobo …
How and why did you end up in theatre and the arts?
I first watched a theatre production when I seven years old in Bujumbura. I remember being dressed in traditional attire and off we went to the cinema with my grandfather. The play was by the famous Rwandan playwright Alexis Kagame. It was the first time I was seeing people acting on stage, and everything seemed strange to me. Luckily, my grandfather explained everything to me.
Two years later, I started to enroll for the arts. I took 20 hours off my school time every month to learn everything I could about the arts. I was exploring the different rhythms of music, and things like how to be elegant, expressive and fast with the body that you have. Maybe you have a body that can express things, maybe you have musical ears or are gifted with speech. All that can be elevated into an art form.
After high school, I enrolled for a degree in Jazz and Drama in Belgium.
What is culture to you?
To me, culture is richness, and in that regard, we’re richer than what we think. The more we share, the more we’re rich.
You are a strong advocate of the return of Rwandans in the diaspora to their home country. Why?
Well, at the moment most key cultural players in the country are returnees. If most of us are now back to Rwanda, it’s because of the cultural values and norms imparted to us while in foreign lands. We try to see how best we can guide the young generation of artistes.
If we can continue to bring Rwandan artistes from the diaspora to the country, then they can become the best cultural ambassadors for the country. We try to forge new links between local and foreign-based Rwandan artists, because when they meet they exchange ideas and sensitivities that further draw them closer.
When I travel abroad, I meet lots of Rwandan artistes who ask me “how is it in Rwanda?” They are hearing about how the country is vibrant. They know that something good is happening in Rwanda; they hear of the good governance, the security and optimism of the people, and they want to experience all these on their own.
We work with not just musicians, but writers too. We periodically bring in contemporary Rwandan writers to the country, and you will find a bit of Rwanda in each of the art works they do.
For instance, Scholastique Mukasonga, a Rwandan author based in Europe is coming in this September, while in October, it will be female writers from Haiti, Ivory Coast and Gabon. We don’t only engage Rwandans, but people from the African diaspora in general.