IT was the biggest cast by Mashirika Performing Arts for all the years it has staged productions at the gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina).
This year, Mashirika was tasked with providing official entertainment at the ceremony, and the group chose to portray community inclusivity through their 15-minute dance-theatre piece at the annual ceremony held in Kinigi on September 1.
To pull this off, the Mashirika team worked with a cast of 100 dancers- half of them local children from the communities in Kinigi.
To their credit, Mashirika staged a multi-layered performance that blended visuals, nature and music. On the visual side, the main attraction was the big, gorilla shaped main stage made out of bamboo, and that stood out like a monument.
This was supplemented with 3D installations of a lion, rhino, giraffe and an elephant, also curved out of bamboo.
The cast made use of green costumes to blend well and also depict nature. There was also a splattering of kitenge African prints to depict what Rwandans wear on a day to day basis.
The other facet of the performances was music, where different sweet African melodies were blended. These were accompanied by traditional Rwandan and English poetry, with special voice effects imitating the gorillas and other nature sounds.
For props, painted bamboo was used.
“We used bamboo because we do appreciate it as the food for gorillas. We put it in the performances because we thought it’s dear to them,” explained Brian Geza, who was head choreographer for the production.
Geza noted that in line with the theme this year: Conservation is Life, they wanted to preach that gospel through dance.
It took two weeks to choreograph the dancers and for most of the children the dance was new, “but because we’re trained professionals and we know how to handle it, we managed to prepare them from scratch up until they were in position to perform before His Excellency the president who was the guest of honor,” Geza explained.
Hope Azeda, the founder and creative director of Mashirika explained that through the piece, the group sought to sensitise and mobilize the local community on wildlife conservation.
“We decided we should involve the local community in construction of the set, a gorilla monument and 3D structures of the other wild animals. The performances portrayed a day in the life of a gorilla because we really wanted to shed light on the human side of the gorillas, which we personified through monologues and movement.”
In one of the skits, an alpha male makes his case:
“I am the Silverback. I am the great gorilla. I am the heart of my family.”
Azeda emphasized that it was important to portray how people live with gorillas and hence created a scene of what happens when people come face to face with gorillas.
“There is a Chinese proverb which says that we learn by doing. It was very important for young people and our audience to be reminded about the importance of preserving nature since it is the home of the gorillas, and that without it the gorillas would not exist,” Azeda added.