Just when you thought that this portfolio is already large and enviable enough for her, Angel Uwamahoro reveals that soon she will be breaking into the visual arts scene as well.
“This is why I like to refer to myself as an artist, as I explore and express myself through these different kinds of art.”
Currently she is pursuing a degree in Theater and Performing Arts at Fordham University in the US.
But that’s not the real news. What is even more interesting is how she got there:
“After performing a self authored poetry piece entitled “Future will I be a Legend?” for the 25th Anniversary of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), I was shortly offered a presidential scholarship to a Performing Arts school of my choice in order to further exploit my talents and passions in the arts.”
She jetted into the country on the 2nd of July, taking a well-deserved break from her hectic university schedule and with two key appointments in mind:
The Ubumuntu Arts Festival that returned for its second edition at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi between July 14th-17th, and the just concluded African Union Summit it Kigali.
That was not all:
“I came back home to collaborate with fellow Rwandan artists on a couple of projects and workshops, and visit family and friends.”
She will be in the country until the end of August, when she will return to complete university.
“It’s always good to be back home. School is really great! I am learning A LOT! (emphasis hers, since this interview was conducted via e-mail).
And the reason this interview had to be conducted via e-mail is because she had lost her voice performing at Ubumuntu and also at the AU Summit.
Uwamahoro joined the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company in 2004, after performing in a play she had written, and winning Best Actress, Playwright, and Singer Award that was awarded to her by the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame.
In 2004, she was part of the original cast of Africa’s Hope, Mashirika’s flagship stage production and perhaps also its most internationally toured stage play when it was first unveiled to a packed audience at the Amahoro National Stadium.
At that time she was just 15 years old. She describes the experience as amazing.
“Being a part of Africa’s Hope allowed me to learn and understand the history of Rwanda through the arts. It is then that I realized that the arts could be used not only for entertainment, but for educational purposes as well.”
In Africa’s Hope, Uwamahoro and her team act out a phantom (and ideal) new world of human existence in which the lives and voices of the dead are relieved and given new meaning through dance, song, poetry and movement.
In the play, the young actors assume the lives and profiles of both victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi to delve deep into its horrors and heart wrenching stories.
In one particularly compelling scene, a little girl describes in graphic detail her memories seeing a child of less than a year old floating on top of a lake, having been killed.
Then she poses the compelling question: “what kind of man would kill a baby? What kind of man would kill a baby?”
She offers the answer to her own rhetorical question; “A man not born to hate, but one who has learned hatred. A man like you or a man like me.”
Uwamahoro believes that it’s important for her to come home and share her passions and talents for the benefit of fellow Rwandans:
“I think it’s important to come back and participate in arts festivals such as Ubumuntu, to contribute what I have learned throughout my experience as an artist, and as an art student, and to find ways to create and tell Rwandan stories through this very entertaining, educational, and influential medium of theater.”
She describes her experience living and studying in the US as an eye-opener that has changed her overall perspective on life and on the arts:
“I have had many courses outside the arts that have broadened my perspective on world history, modern science, human rights, environmental and health issues, which have all contributed greatly to my growth as an artist. I have been able to observe how Africa is perceived in the West, and begin to explore ways that I and other fellow Africans can change this negative narrative and create bridges of exchange and education between the two continents. In short, my perspective has broadened, and my role and responsibility as a citizen of the world and specifically as a proud African and Rwandan has become more clear and fervent.”
Away from the arts and school, she likes to simply “sit back and observe the world and its ways”.
Uwamahoro believes that there is a new chapter to her life that many do not know about but ought to.
“What is it?” I ask:
“I’m newly vegetarian, though I’m still struggling with letting go of cheese and chocolate. I made this decision for environmental, health, and animal cruelty reasons. In the future I hope to become an activist for veganism as well.”
I asked her how she handles all the attention especially from male fans:
“It is all very flattering but I remind myself to always be polite and humble about it as those two things are God-given and are assets to my line of work. So, it’s nothing to be big headed about- but to be treated with respect and gratitude.
She would like to see fellow youth like her take part in shaping the nation’s new narrative:
“I believe that the youth should invest in their dreams and interests as I believe that this will encourage development in different areas of the country which will add value to the country’s overall development and a growing voice in our narrative.”
Collaborations with Artists such as Focus Ruremire, Pastor P, and several others are in the works and will be released to the public very soon.