Carole Karemera Umuringa has been in the field for 23 years and her passion is seen in movies like ‘Sometimes in April’ and ‘The Battlefield’. The co-founder of Ishyo Arts Centre talked to Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa about her impressive career, how she perceives the arts sector and her plans for the future.
Tell us about yourself
I am 41 years old, a mother and wife. I travel a lot which means that I am living between here and the rest of the world, which I like so much because it suits my imagination. Since last year, I am back on stage full time and at the moment, I am on tour in a play called ‘The Battlefield’ directed by Peter Brook in France, Tokyo, Singapore, Mumbai (India), England, Hong Kong and we will continue till next year July. It is one of the oldest poems on the history of humanity called ‘The Mahabharata’.
What have you been working on over the years?
Ishyo Arts Centre is celebrating ten years in July and I dedicated my time and my energy to work with my colleagues to see how we can revitalise the arts sector. We have strengthened the connection here in Rwanda in terms of creative production and have had so many shows outside of Rwanda. We have been able to work with institutions like Imbuto Foundation and the Kigali Public Library and I think it’s quite good that we met our advocacy work and talk about the challenges of the sector and the creative part of it. It’s good that we now meet international standards and surprise people, because some people think that we don’t have a creative life in Rwanda. All they think is that we have economic governance, security and don’t hear about the artists. This year we hope to do the diagnosis of the arts sector at the national level and with all the civil society organisations in the arts and culture sector to see how to articulate a concrete plan of action for the development of the culture of Rwanda in 2017. We want the culture of Rwanda to be taken seriously by all artists. We need to create an environment for those artists to grow and make a life out of it.
You’ve played some commendable roles, what do you think the movie industry is like here and how can it improve?
‘Sometimes in April’ in 2004 and a play we did in 1994 were my first two performances in Rwanda but I was already acting for 10 years outside of Rwanda. At that time, I felt it was really necessary for the arts to take position and to help in rebuilding people. I work with many actresses in different productions but I think that the potential is really there. I, however, think that if there was a music and drama degree or diploma programme at university, people would take it seriously and parents would not discourage their children to join. I also see that the confidence level has grown so much here in Rwanda, the talent for girls in writing and acting is there. As artists, we are crosscutting and all we need is recognition. In The United Kingdom and United States, art and music contribute so much to the economy only because it is supported. We need to support them and connect them to the rest of the world.
What inspires you?
As an artist, I really try to understand the world that I am living in and on a daily basis, see how I can contribute to it. It’s all about reflecting, questioning and how I can use my time on earth the best way I can. I try to understand human beings and which kind of world we will leave for our children. I believe that there is no time for anybody, which is why I learn as much as I can and see every day as a new day.
What are some of the challenges that you have encountered in your career?
My first challenge when I was in Belgium was to convince my family that I wanted to be an artist and the second one was to fight racism in school, at university and in the industry. I was only lucky to meet people on my professional journey who looked at my difference as an opportunity and I never stopped working despite the challenges.
What are you planning next?
We have a project for the children in plan called ‘Small Size Big Citizens’ and we would like to have a theatre for children from 6 months to 18 years because as a mother, I feel that we need to invest in our children’s creativity.
We also have a project with Natacha Muzira, a journalist, an actress and co-founder of Marakuja to talk about women and reflect on us as Rwandan women. There is a project called ‘The Child I Left Behind’ talking about refugees. It is because of the difficult times of immigration now and so many years ago that led to immigration that I would like to talk about. Also because of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, so many children were left behind and have grown without their parents because they are dead or in prison. I would also like to come up with a culture magazine or television show dedicated to African writers because they have a lot to share and they need a bigger platform. I also want to build a big arts centre in Kigali which will have an arts school, a library, a studio and theatre with a hub for creative people.
Any advice you would like to pass on?
Life is short, make good use of it. Art is long and if you make good use of it will help you survive and you could use it to speak to the world.