Hope Azeda is the founder and Managing Director of Mashirika Performing Arts, a leading theatre company in Rwanda. She is also the brains behind the recently concluded annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival, held from Thursday July 14 to Sunday July 17 at the Kigali Genocide Memorial amphitheater, that brought together artists from different parts of the world. She spoke to Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwaabout the impact of her work to society.
What was the motivation behind Ubumuntu Arts Festival?
Ubumuntu Arts Festival started as a project of the African Leadership Initiative (Aspen Institute) which pushes leaders who have been successful to move towards significance. The word Ubumuntu can be defined as “being human”. The festival aims at creating an avenue where people from different walks of life can come together and speak to each other in the language of art.
The second edition of the festival has just ended. Can you say that your expectations were met?
Ubumuntu is like a baby that is growing too fast. This year’s event was only the second edition but the festival has doubled in length and number of performances. 18 participating countries brought 23 performances that graced our stage. Our expectations keep growing as the baby grows. Last year we expected about 500 people to show up but we were surprised with a full amphitheater with about 4,000 people each night.
What in your career are you most proud of?
I’m most honoured and humbled where we are but the journey is still young to think about pride. I’m excited to see where the journey takes us. Ubumuntu Arts Festival brings different artists from around the world to Kigali to engage in a much needed dialogue about humanity. Our dream is to make Rwanda a one stop centre for change. We have been through hell, and our journey of healing and reconciliation has a lot to teach the world.
What impact do you think your work has on society?
This is our humble effort and vision to create a signature event for Rwanda by sharing stories about humanity and empowering communities. Ubumuntu is a place of public introspection that allows thought and dialogue that you can’t have at home. The audience arrives early to just sit at the amphitheater and look and think.
How different was this arts festival from the rest?
Art played a crucial role in tackling Rwanda’s immense post Genocide challenges and this is the type of art that we share atUbumuntu Arts Festival. It is not a place of “art for art’s sake” but rather types of art that address anything that make a human being uncomfortable. Every performance touches on social justice themes. It is also the background of our own shadow that has been our strength as a country.
What were your objectives for this year’s festival?
This year we aimed to reach the high standards we set following last year’s festival. We have helped initiate collaborations between artists from different countries and also helped build the capacity of young people. Providing training through collaboration and workshops at the festival is a major objective because it allows for sharing of skills and equipping participants with necessary tools to become agents of change in their communities through art.