Come October 28, the pioneer finalists of the newly launched Art Rwanda-Ubuhanzi talent search project will report to boot camp, at a yet to be named venue.
Launched on August 24, in Kigali, the project seeks to identify young artistic talent across a wide spectrum of art disciplines, and offer them the requisite skills and tools to not only hone their respective talents but also become creative entrepreneurs.
It was initiated by the Ministry of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) and that of Youth, and is being implemented by Imbuto Foundation as a partner and stakeholder that champions youth empowerment in general.
The project seeks to identify talent under six competition categories: Plastic Arts, Music and Dance, Fashion, Acting and Drama, Film and Photography, and Literature. The six categories are considered by MINISPOC as the sub components under the creative arts industry. It is open to Rwandan nationals aged 18-35, with a demonstrable artistic talent.
The initiative kicked off with nationwide auditions that took organizsers and a panel of five judges to six different sites representing the four Provinces plus the City of Kigali.
Kayonza district in the Eastern Province was first to audition, on September 8, before Musanze, Huye and Rusizi in subsequent weekends. Kigali held its auditions on September 29, and 30.
The Western Province and City of Kigali stood out, with two separate auditions each as opposed to one. In the Western Province, auditions took place in Rubavu and Rusizi Districts, on account of the Province’s large size.
For its part, the City of Kigali, which had the largest turnout of contestants held its auditions over two days.
Thousands of hopefuls turned up for the regional auditions, but in the end, the five-member panel of judges only picked 587.
After the regional auditions, there was a pre-selection exercise in Kabuga, at which the judges identified the final 70 that would go to boot camp.
“Out of the six competition categories, each was supposed to have 10 best representatives, but then we realized that out of the 587, half the number was from the Music and Dance category alone. This category includes singers, dancers, and instrumentalists,” explained Martine Umukunzi, the Communications Officer at Imbuto Foundation.
The judges sat in four panels, of which two were for the Music and Dance category, which had the biggest number of contestants. On one of the music panels was Bruce Melodie, audio producer Pastor P, and Nicole Irakuze, while Mani Martin, Sandrine Isheja and Danny Vumbi sat on the second panel.
The third judges panel handled Acting, Drama, Cinematography and Fashion. On it were judges Diogene Ntarindwa, Lauren Rwema, and Moses Turahirwa.
The fourth panel, for Plastic Arts and Literature had the actor Kennedy Mazimpaka, Jean Marie Vianney Kabakera, and Jean De Dieu Kibibi.
“One would not believe what I saw in these two creative fields (Plastic Arts and Literature). There is a huge talent in plastic arts among our youth and it’s passion too, unlike Literature where skills are limited. I think there is huge talent and passion in Rwandan youth but less dreams,” remarked Kennedy Mazimpaka.
Judges aside, there were also experts brought in from different fields of art to impart their skills and expertise to contestants.
Eric Kabera, the founder of Kwetu Film Institute described Art Rwanda Ubuhanzi as “the biggest, most ambitious and remarkable project centered around art in Rwanda”.
Kabera came in as an expert in cinema, audio-visual, and storytelling.
“It was a challenging category to judge, as you had to judge what you see – be it a movie, or a film script.”
Fashion entrepreneur Sonia Mugabo was brought in as an expert in music, fashion, Literature, and Plastic Arts.
“It was a great experience going in the countryside and seeing all this talent. It made me realize that we have a lot of hidden talent in Rwanda. It was really inspiring to see how people have embraced the arts across the country not only as something they love but also from which they earn a living,” Mugabo said.
“The fact that they brought respectable artists to act as judges is a good recognition, and this project is a great platform to discover the hunger and thirst for the arts in the country and the commitment of young people to cultural expression,” explained Kabera.
Off to boot camp
After the first week of boot camp, 40 of the 70 contestants will be dropped, leaving only 30 (five for each of the six competition categories).
According to Ingrid Karangwayire, the Acting Coordinator, Education and Empowerment Unit at Imbuto Foundation, the boot camp will be in two phases.
“The first phase is to help contestants develop their individual talent, working with their mentors and coaches. The second phase will be an incubation centre because there is an incubation period once we’ve gotten the winners in the competition.”
Once the number of contestants is cut down to 30 after the first week, it will be down to five contestants in each of the six categories.
“We want to group them and help them learn how to work within a collective. They’ll be given assignments to work on jointly and demonstrate how their projects will generate income and benefit the community,” Karangwayire added.
“We will have a set of coaches and mentors and art galleries that we will work with in each field of expertise to help the contestants. These are people who have been there and have the experience and equipment and skills to transfer that knowledge and soft skills and everything that’s needed for them to become these great artists,” explained Umukunzi, Communications Officer at Imbuto Foundation. “
“The boot camp will train contestants in their individual talents, but also help them develop business ideas, because the long term objective of this is for them to not just have talent but also manage to do something with it, and eventually create jobs that can benefit others as well.”
There will be three categories of winners at the end of the boot camp: The winning group, the most talented individual in each group, and “the person that will have shown charisma and attracted the public to follow them on their journey”. Prizes will range from cash to equipment.