Ubumuntu arts festival 2020 kicks off Friday

Though the new coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the creative industry, some have adjusted and found a way to continue with their plans. Preparations are ongoing for the 6th edition of Ubumuntu Arts festival which opens on Friday, July 17 and closes on Sunday, July 19, organisers have announced.

Organised by Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, the annual festival which was becoming an annual celebrated event is held following after the last week of the 100 days of commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi with people from different walks of life coming together to speak to each other in the language of art.


Unlike the previous editions since 2015, the festival, which is normally held at the outdoor Amphitheatre of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, will this edition go virtual in line with the prevention of the spread of the


Covid-19 pandemic


Festival activities include but are not limited to performances from different artists from around the world, workshops and panels of discussions.

Despite the Covid-19 crisis, Hope Azeda, the brain behind the festival, said her company is doing all they can, within their means, to keep the festival alive and make it a successful one.

“We are walking a journey and learning how to walk at the same time. After this festival we hope to have developed a tool kit/blueprint of how to run a virtual festival,” Azeda said.

“This is the testimony that as artists, Covid-19 never took art from us. Regardless of the storms we go through, we have art. It is the power and tools to get us through the storm” she added.

The festival is a combination of pre-recorded elements, live performances that will happen live at a stage in Kigali and live feeds from around the world.

On the technical perspective, organisers said they are taking advantage of digital media possibilities to put together the festival involving performers from 20 countries including Egypt, Germany, Kenya, Uganda, Israel and Rwanda to name but a few.

The three-day festival theme is “Stop, Breathe and Live” and was, according to organisers, inspired by the fact that today, it is getting really difficult to find the space and opportunity to just breathe, metaphorically and literally.

“We are all so caught up in one rat race or another; busy schedules trying to meet deadlines, chasing dreams and trying to be successful that we forget to take the time to breathe and experience life in the now,” Azeda explained.

According to the festival schedule, the first day of the festival will be a UN conference, a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured program of events.

The conference will feature workshops, discussions and even performances. The other two days of the online festival will host performances from artists that had been planning to travel to Kigali for the festival but now cannot.

Limited sponsorship

As a festival which relies on donations and sponsors for financial support, organisers are suffering from the loss of funding from a number of their partners whose businesses were affected by the Coronavirus.

But with some support from the government, through the Ministry of Youth and Culture, German and US Embassies in Rwanda among other sponsors, Azeda is confident the festival will be a success.

“You cannot fetch water to a dry well and we know companies are in crisis or struggling to get their businesses to recover from this crazy situation. Art is my call and I can’t give up on this because I am struggling with funding. Now, my first sponsor now is the brain and hope but doors are open to anyone who wishes to support us in this good cause,” she said.


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