Cruising through Kigali, one can’t help but gaze at the FESPAD clips showcased on electronic billboards. For those who have witnessed FESPAD in Rwanda, such hints throw him or her into a yearning frenzy for the sheer glamour and splendor of cultural dances and other exquisite performances the unique festival manifests.
The Pan African Dance Festival (FESPAD) is a cultural event set up in 1998 during the 67th session of African Union Ministers of Culture Council. It’s a biennial event organised by the Rwandan Ministry of Sports and Culture under the patronage of the African Union.
FESPAD 2008 opens today at the Universite Libre de Kigali stadium.
According to the minister of culture and sports, Joseph Habineza, the establishment of FESPAD in Rwanda was inspired by the need to provide Rwandans with a fascinating and fulfilling event to identify themselves with, and for happiness and growth to supplant a dark past.
The 2008 edition of FESPAD will be packed with celebrations, travels and discoveries, as Rwanda celebrates a double anniversary; the centenary of the capital city Kigali and the 10th anniversary of FESPAD.
For one week, the cities of Kigali, Butare and Gisenyi will be celebrating traditional rhythms, marveling music and dances from all over Africa and beyond.
Performers have been arriving from Egypt, Namibia, Guinea, Kenya, Burkina Faso, some have come from as far as China and Japan.
This time around, FESPAD, under the theme ‘brief encounter between the heartbeat of the past and the pulse of the present’, is poised to blend traditional dances with contemporary creations to add a modern flavor to the festival.
“To celebrate this 10th anniversary, it was important that traditional dances, to which we are deeply attached as they are part of our cultural heritage, meet more contemporary dance creations. For the first time, the FESPAD will be honoured by the presence of great contemporary dance choreographers such as Serge-Aimé Coulibaly from Burkina Faso, South African Vincent Mantsoe, Beninese Vincent Harisdo,” reported Anita Munyaneza, the FESPAD public relations officer.
The festival will present a dialogue between traditional African dances and famous international contemporary dance choreographers.
FESPAD aims to help preserve and communicate traditional/cultural knowledge and know-how. To this end a Pan African Archival Centre, Ejo Dance Centre, is being created.
The centre will produce ‘K-Dance’, a TV show on dance, and organise trainings for art technicians and photographers.
The centre will host the Great Lakes Dance Platform, a workshop dedicated to enriching professional dancers, and organise two conferences ‘Arts and Business’ and ‘Imprints and Memory’.
The success of FESPAM (Pan African Music Festival) held in Brazzaville and FESPACO (Film and Television Pan African Festival of Ouagadougou) have proven how beneficial such events can be to hosting countries.
“Such an event is a wonderful marketing tool for a city or a country in terms of tourists’ attractions. Moreover, the influx of tourists, artists and other FESPAD participants is an economic opportunity for local hotels and restaurants,” explained Munyaneza.