5th edition of Ubumuntu Arts Festival launched

Hope Azeda (right) makes her presentation while other panelists (L-R: Emilienne Benurugo , brand manager Skol/Virunga, singer Lillian Mbabazi, Thomas West, Creative Director, collaborative Arts Ensemble (CAE) look on. Courtesy photos.

The 5th edition of the annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival kicks off this Friday, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Amphitheater.

The festival, which closes on Sunday, July 14, brings together artists and performance troupes from 16 countries across the globe. Participating countries at this year’s festival are; Rwanda, Austria, Burundi, Canada, DRC, France, Kenya, Malawi, Turkey, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Tanzania, UK, and the US.

The theme for this year is; When The Walls Come Down –Truth.

Journalists follow proceedings at the news conference.

Speaking at a news conference held at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Peace School on Monday, organisers revealed that the festival’s focus is on the role of the arts in tackling causes of hate and discrimination, as well as promoting honest conversations in society.

“Our lives are increasingly marked and divided by borders and boundaries. At a time of increased migration, refugee crises and unequal visa policies, geographical borders are becoming more visible as lines that separate countries, regions, and people. These borders influence, shape and limit our lives. These boundaries that are hidden, and are sometimes even invisible, have the same effect. Whether structural, historical, or emotional, these boundaries that exist in our minds hold us back from connecting deeply with the world. This year’s festival aims to tackle these issues,” explained Hope Azeda, the festival founder and curator during the press conference.

The festival will, among others, seek to examine the effects of physical and emotional boundaries on social cohesion.

Singer Lillian Mbabazi makes a point during the press conference. 

“The fifth edition of the festival seeks to pose questions and share answers about the state of social relations around the world –from inequality and injustice, to hate and discrimination. Our world is facing indifference and prejudice. Barriers limit communities from free expression and connection. As artists, it is our duty to spread positive thinking and change hearts and minds. We want to inspire the next generation to be peacemakers and empathetic leaders,” Azeda further explained.

Also present at the news conference were; Rwandan-Ugandan songbird Lillian Mbabazi; Thomas West, the founder and Executive Director of Collaborative Arts Ensemble, a theater company from the US; and a representative from Skol Breweries, one of the festival’s main sponsors.

Lillian Mbabazi and her Sundowners’ Band will be the main performer at the Ikaze Night Party, organised as a pre-festival event on the eve of the festival’s kickoff. The Ikaze Night Party will take place at the Kigali Cultural and Exhibition Village (KCEV), with proceeds from ticket sales going to the cause of festival, which is free attendance for all.

Mbabazi will also join a local choir in a choral performance on the closing night of the festival –Sunday July 14.

“Being a part of this festival is basically my way of giving hope to people and encouraging peace and unity and humanity. Music and the arts always bring people together. It is one language that we all understand,’ she explained.

For his part, Thomas West, Founder and Executive Director of Collaborative Arts Ensemble from the US thanked organizers for availing his theater troupe the opportunity for collaboration.

Founded about two years ago, Collaborative Arts Ensemble are collaborating with Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company on a remake of the Mashirika flagship youth play, Generation 25(G25), which premiered at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Amphitheater in April. The play delves into the tragic history of Rwanda, and how the generation born after the genocide is copying with its effects.

West revealed that it is the Collaborative Arts Ensemble’s first international artistic cooperation.

“What got me most excited when Hope and I started talking about this collaboration was the opportunity for artists from the US and from Rwanda to come together and to see how the issues raised in the G25 play are global issues that apply to global communities. They basically furnished us with a tool or common language to look past barriers and tell stories that uplift our shared humanity. When I founded CAE two years ago it was really a response to artists that wanted to use their art to create impact on society,” West revealed, before pledging to see to it that the play eventually tours the US at a later date.

“We need to break down barriers. We need to make peace happen. This is just the beginning,” he concluded.


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