Three months ago, Clementine Umutoni, 11, Christian Sibomana, 16, and their peers were just kids dancing in Intayoberana, a traditional dance troop in Rwanda.
In 2015, Umutoni and Sibomana joined Intayoberana in pursuit of a place to cut a rug but in a traditional way and also broaden their understanding of the Rwandan culture. Little did they know that in four years’ time they would encounter “one of the best experiences to ever happen in their lives.”
The troupe emerged as the 2nd best-talented act at the recently concluded East Africa’s Got Talent, a show that selects and awards the best-talented act in the East African region. The competition, which was being held for the first time, is part of the Got Talent franchise owned by English television music and talent show judge Simon Cowell. The competition brought together participants from across four countries in East Africa; Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The talent show, which was started in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, was won by Ugandan siblings Esther and Ezekiel Mutesasira.
When The New Times recently visited Intayoberana in Kimisagara, Kigali, the group that participated in EAGT, comprised of 10 (boys and girls), was rehearsing Ikinimba, a musical traditional dance.
Christian Sibomana, said they participated in the show and didn’t expect much. However, “reaching the semi-finals boosted our confidence and we started thinking that we could take home the grand prize”, added Sibomana.
Grateful to the Rwandans for having voted them through to the finals, the 16-year-old added that a lot of practice enabled them to perform well.
This was echoed by Umutoni, saying that the group only studied in the morning and the afternoons were consecrated to practice.
At the time of our visit, EAGT participates had rejoined the Intayoberana family and were all concentrated on perfecting and syncing their respective dances.
On another hand, for these youngsters however, the contest wasn’t just about competing and dancing, for they learned a lot from this journey.
Intayoberana also performs at weddings and other traditional events. / Sam Ngendahimana
Sibomana noted that the time factor was a challenge that they had to overcome in order to become successful.
“Normally, when we dance at weddings, the time factor isn’t our priority because we aim at entertaining the audience”, he said.
But at the auditions, Sibomana said, we had to entertain and convince the judges that we deserve the $50,000 ((Rwf46,094,500) grand prize in such a short time.
We, therefore, had to practice a lot to get our act right within the allocated time.”
Another thing that startled them was the airport reception, a thing that will be etched on their hearts.
“We were welcomed with so much love at Kigali International Airport, which was overwhelming”, said Umutoni.
“It felt awesome, like the country loved, cared and walked with us throughout the whole competition,” recounted the 11-year-old.
The stage, of all other things, was jaw-dropping for the whole group, as they extolled it in unison when Laxen Ntwali, their captain explained.
Ntwali, who only went with his team for the theatre auditions due to private reasons, noted that for the brief time he was there, the stage always looked new to his eyes.
For Jocelin Kayumba and Sandra Annie Berwa, boarding the plane for the first was their most exciting moment.
Emmanuel Remy Irasubiza, too enjoyed travelling by plane and added that enjoying the scenic beauty of Kenya even appears in his dreams when he is sleeping.
Some of the young girls who perform in Intayoberana pose for the photo after their rehearsals in Kimisagara, Kigali. / Sam Ngendahimana
Overall, the troupe had an amazing time in Kenya and enjoyed every bit of it.
Nevertheless, all the faces that were lit up while we talked about catchy moments, fell when Umutoni mentioned the only thing that made them have a lump in their throats.
“We were saddened by the second place. We thought we had it until the moment they announced the winner. Also, the few seconds before announcing the winner almost made our hearts skip a bit,” she added.
The youngsters urged Rwandans to preserve their culture, for it is good and appealing to outsiders.
Sibomana could not help but smile as he expressed how emotional it was to see the audience enjoy their performance.