After two successful runs in 2015 and 2016, the Ubumuntu Arts Festival is back. This year’s event has attracted more interest than the previous editions. According to organisers, although they have planned for 10 performances, over 30 applications have been received.
The festival will run from July 14-16 at the amphitheater of the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi.
The festival symbolically happens after the last week of the 100 days commemoration period for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. It brings together different artists and performance troupes from across the globe for various performances, workshops and panel discussions centered on the theme of humanity.
The festival slogan is; “I am because you are, you are because I am: together we are human”.
This year, organisers sent out an online call for applications, and the response was overwhelming, a sign that the festival has grown by leaps and bounds.
“Before, it was about who we knew. This time we sent out a call for applications starting December and closed it on March 31. It’s online –we put out the communication and people submit their documents and scripts, genres and titles of their projects, size of cast, to help us plan,” explained Hope Azeda, the founder and artistic director of Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, the organisers.
“We got over 30 applications yet we are looking for only ten performances. Now we’re in the process of short listing and by end of April we’ll have the final list of performances,” said Azeda.
For the first time, this year’s festival will feature disability performances. There will be deaf performances from Poland and Nigeria, and another from Rwanda to be staged by Talking Through Art, an association of persons with disabilities picked from the streets and facilitated to make baskets and jewelry. They will perform a play titled Inshuti (friends), which they are currently rehearsing with a team of theater directors from the US.
The disability performances will be one of the highlights at this year’s festival. The other is a piece about the “Chibok Girls”, a group of 276 Nigerian school girls that were abducted by the Boko Haram militia in the town of Chibok in April 2014.
“How do we as a festival shine light on the mystery of the missing girls in Nigeria? Our slogan is “We are human together”, and this is how we become human together,” Azeda noted.
Another focus this year will be on skills development especially among the youth. To this end, a team from Los Angeles will be in the country to work with twenty Rwandan children who are writing their own plays to be acted by adults.
Under the amateur category, a team of students from Kirehe District in the Eastern Province will perform Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. There will be performances from the host country Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Sweden, the US, Lebanon, Belgium, Iraq, and South Africa, among others.
Another key performance will be that of Pambazuka, also a Mashirika production. The piece taps on victims of child abuse, and the central character is a 15-year-old girl that is pregnant with the father’s child. She is torn between killing the child, and letting it grow so that its father, who also happens to be her own father can raise the child.
“It also taps on a young child who has seen the mother murder the entire family, and how as society we can help these kids psychologically because both are true stories that I picked up from the local media,” said Azeda.
Pambazuka is like kids living in darkness but we only see them in the sun. They show happiness on the outside, but there are a lot of scars and a million family secrets that we’re not tapping on, like fathers sleeping with their daughters and no one wants to talk about it. I wrote Pambazuka for that. How do we crack this, because it’s a taboo, but it’s the children that live with the trauma.”
Mashirika will wrap up their performances with a workshop on the definition of home.