Meet Matt Deely, the brains behind ‘Kinigi Kong’ Kwita Izina stage

workers set up the gigantic Kinigi Kong stage for the annual ceremony. /Courtesy photos.

The past three Kwita Izina events have been highlighted by an artistic stage. At the centre lies Kinigi Kong, the gorilla stage built every year for the baby gorilla naming ceremony. Behind that superstructure is Matt Deely, an Irish designer who has been in the arts industry for over 20 years.

After studying Motley Theatre design in London, Matt Deely undertook some international projects, like Moon Opera in Beijing and Romeo and Juliet in Japan. However, his touch as a set designer has been greatly felt at Rwandan events, such as Kwita Izina 2016, Kwibuka 20 (2014), Kwibuka 25 (2019), and Ubumuntu Arts Festival Rwanda.


For this year’s Kwita Izina, the set designer designed the sun shaped entrances, the bamboo animals and magnificent VIP tent dressing. After this major feat, The New Times’ Hugues Mugemana spoke with Matt Deely to know more about his art.




What inspired the Kinigi Kong stage?

It all started back in 2016 when I was asked to come up with an interesting approach for Kwita Izina. RDB accepted my proposal of a giant King Kong stage. Its inspiration came from wanting to elevate the event, and I had to find something catchy which also heightens the event as well as attracting attention to conservation.

Matt at the venue where Rwandans‭, ‬conservationists‭, ‬stars‭, ‬and friends of Rwanda gathered for the 15th edition of Kwita Izina event‭, ‬in Northern Province‭, ‬on Sept.6‭.‬

Can you compare the 2016 from 2019 stages?

In 2016, it was my first time doing an animal stage which was challenging to me. From the experience, we managed to make a more beautiful stage in 2019.

What drives you in all this? 

Sun burned! I love my job as a designer and I get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in seeing it all come from paper to reality. I also enjoy the experience of working with local workers whom I would like to thank for their commitment and team work.

The entrances of the venue were sun-shaped‭, ‬designed from bamboo trees‭.‬

It must be demanding… 

Yes, a three weeks work with 100 workers putting together a stack of metal, wood and bamboo with nails and glue, is pretty tiresome. But when you are focused on the goal and getting it completed on time, you don’t think of tiredness. Design and creating is an adrenaline rush.

Should we expect to see the Kinigi Kong next year?

Yes, we designed it for a three-year period. There may be some necessary repairs, but the intention is also to provide some sustainable employment to the local community.

Some readers would like to know how you spend your time in Rwanda.... 

About my time in Rwanda, I enjoy some goat’s meat and Tusker Malt and I have many friends here. I love being in Rwanda and I am looking forward to returning soon.

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