Curtains fall on Ubumuntu Arts Festival


Spot Lite Crew, from Uganda, with their piece, Desolation in Chains. / Courtesy

Curtains fell on the third edition of the annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival on Sunday night. The three-day festival, that opened on Friday, July 14 at the Kigali Genocide Memorial amphitheater in Gisozi, attracted troupes from fourteen countries across the world.

The event involved a series of free workshops, stage performances, panel discussions and exhibitions featuring performers from Rwanda, Nigeria, the US, South Africa, the DR Congo, the UK, Czech Republic, Uganda, Lebanon, Belgium, India, Sweden, Iraq, and Burundi.

Friday, the opening night, saw performances from the African Children’s Choir (Children will sing), and students of G.S Rugoma Secondary School, who performed the Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet. Other performances included My Body is Looking for a New Reality (Rwanda, Iraq, Belgium), Torn Together (MindLeaps, Rwanda and USA), Humanity Rising (Rwanda and USA), Run of the Power (DR Congo), and Zahabu (Rwanda).

Spot Lite Crew, from Uganda, perform their piece titled Desolation in Chains. / Courtesy
Youths from Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwamagana District perform their piece titled Have Mercy. / Courtesy
Members of Talking Through Art, a theater troupe comprised of persons with disabilities after staging their piece, Inshuti. / Courtesy
Performers hoist a white veil over the audience as a symbol of unity and shared humanity on Day I of the festival. / Courtesy
Hilde Cannoodt, a dance choreographer from Belgium, on stage on Day II of the festival. / Courtesy

Day two saw performances from Rwanda, Lebanon, Belgium, Uganda and Kenya, among others. The third edition of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival was marked under the theme; ‘Art meets technology: bringing stories of home to life’.

One of the highlights of the closing night on Sunday was a piece titled The Chibok Girls: Our Story, which centres around the abduction of more than 200 girls from their school dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram, on the night of April 14, 2014.  

The play tracks the events leading up to the incident, the aftermath, and its impact on the region and the world as a whole.

This year the festival shone a special spotlight on performances by children and persons with disabilities. The opening night was especially dedicated to performances by and for the young. The aim, according to organisers, was to motivate young people to embrace the vibrant world of theater and performing arts and to use technology for social good.

On Saturday, children and persons with disabilities graced the Ubumuntu stage again, with spectacular performances from the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village and Talking Through Art, a theater troupe made up of persons with disabilities.

It was the second consecutive year of participation in the festival for children from the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, who staged a piece titled Have Mercy featuring a cast of 28 students. It was one of the highlights of Saturday’s performances.

The other outstanding act of the night was Talking Through Art, a theater group made up of persons with disabilities. Through their piece, Inshuti (friends), clad in traditional Rwandan wear (umushanana), were able to nail the message that ‘disability is not inability’, and that Rwanda is changing and cares for them.

The highlight of their performance was when they sung Rwanda Cares About Us, a remake of the legendary pop music icon Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us.

“All I wanna say is that Rwanda really cares about us,” went the chorus, accompanied by Kinyarwanda verses lauding the space and recognition accorded to persons with disabilities in Rwanda.

This year, performances were grouped under four different clusters; the Ensemble, with a total of 12 professional performances; the Recreational cluster featuring upcoming young artists drawn from school-based drama clubs, while another cluster, titled Works in Progress, featured one performance. There are also presentations that came about as a result of international collaborations, running for 10-15 minutes each.

The Ubumuntu Arts Festival tagline is; “I am because you are, you are because I am; together we are human”.

It aims at creating an avenue where people from different walks of life can come together and speak to each other through the medium of art.

The festival is symbolically staged at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a demonstration of the crucial role that art has played and continues to play in dealing with the country’s immense post-Genocide challenges.