Hamwe Festival: When global health meets dance

Dancers from Amizero Dance Company performed at the festival’s closing night at Camp Kigali. / Dan Nsengiyumva

Curtains fell on the closing night of Hamwe Festival’s first edition that aimed at hyperlinking the connection between art and health on November 13, in Kigali.

The festival was concluded by a dance therapy session, in a collaboration of Dr Rainbow Ho, an award-winning researcher and dancer from the University of Hong Kong, and Wesley Ruzibiza, a professional choreographer and founder of Amizero Dance Company.


Dr Ho made a presentation, portraying how dance has been used as a therapeutic tool for physical and mental health issues.


She then gave the stage to the dancers, and discussed the message of their performance thereafter. Several choreographed dances were presented, and among the messages were that dance improves relationships, connectivity, mental health and physical health.


Artistes believe that performing arts can be healing and nurturing to the body and human life. / Dan Nsengiyumva

Dr Ho also highlighted that dancing, among other physical therapies, has the most ability to help people with dementia, a term that describes symptoms of impairment in memory, communication and thinking.

Contemporary, modern and traditional dances were showcased to the audience, who later engaged in the question-and-answer session, to learn what they did not understand from the presentations.

The guest of honour, Dr Zuberi Muvunyi, Director General of clinical and public health services at the Ministry of Health, also emphasised the use of arts as medicine.

Organised by the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), the six-day festival sought to provide an enabling environment for strong collaborations between the creative and health sectors, so that new insights into global health challenges and their corresponding solutions can be found.

Hamwe Festival was born from a need to build bridges between the health sector and that of the arts and creative industries to improve health equity.

A traditional dancer takes to the stage with a woven basket on her head. / Dan Nsengiyumva

Alongside the dance therapy night, the festival had various activities such as; arts in health masterclass, where experts shared knowledge on using arts in addressing health issues, the ‘beauty as medicine’ exhibition curated by Maison Beaulier, ‘She matters’ concert that showcased artistes who have used their voices to advance women’s health and Hamwe talks, where experts shared knowledge on how arts could contribute to the SDG’s, among others.

Speaking to The New Times, the vice-chancellor of UGHE, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, said the festival was a great success, and people should expect more.

“We are going to choose another theme. This year it was around health and gender equity, and there are so many subjects that show more difficulties than others,” she said.

According to the organisers, the festival was held because the university believes that collaboration between global health professionals and creatives who share the same belief can achieve global health equity, if bridges across the sectors are built. It will be held annually.


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