Delegates trickle in for 3rd Ubumuntu Arts Festival

Theater and performance groups from across the globe have started arriving in the country for the third edition of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival.

Founded in 2015, the festival takes place from July 14-16 at the Amphitheater of the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

The festival is a series of free workshops, stage performances and exhibitions that seek to raise awareness of stories of humanity through art, drama, music and dance. The theme for this year is: Art Meets Technology; Bringing Stories of Home to Life. It is organised by the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, a leading local theater troupe.

Ubumuntu is a Kinyarwanda word for ‘humanity’, and the concept seeks to promote unity among all peoples of the world, love and inclusion on the one hand, while rejecting hatred and discrimination on the other.

Addressing a news conference ahead of the event at the Kigali Genocide Memorial on Friday, Hope Azeda, the festival curator and founder of Mashirika, revealed that this year’s edition will focus on the intersection of art and technology, and how each can come together to advance a shared sense of humanity.

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Hope Azeda speaking to journalists yesterday. Courtesy.

“This festival aims to inspire participants to be champions for humanity and agents of positive change in their communities. The performances at this year’s festival will connect attendees with the concepts of art and technology by bringing stories of home to life,” she explained, adding that the festival will further encourage guests to be voices of positive change in a world that is rapidly transforming due to technology.

Dieudonné Nagiriwubuntu, a guide officer at Kigali Genocide Memorial, said it was a privilege for the memorial to be associated with the festival.

“It means a lot to us to be involved with the Ubumuntu cause especially since this place (the memorial) holds the remains of more than 250,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. We are humbled to be part of this big group of people promoting peace and humanity,” he said.

Also present at the news conference were some of the foreign artists and theater troupes that will be participating in the festival. They include Mokhallad Rasem, who lives in Belgium but is originally from Iraq, and who will be staging a theater piece titled Waiting; stage designers Naoka Fukushima and Ryo Sakamoto, from Japan; and Adam Kalesperis, the co-founder of B.R.I.D.G.E Theater Project from the US, which is working with 20 Rwandan children on various theater collaborations.

“The children are writing their own original plays which will be performed by adults so the children will witness their plays performed on stage at Ubumuntu. We’re also bringing plays from other parts of the world for Rwandan children to perform – from Ecuador, Nepal, and USA,” Kalesperis said.

“We work with young people from all around the world because we recognise the need for a shared humanity and no matter which part of the world we may be from, we’re all alike. We need to embrace our differences and dig deeper and recognise that we have so much in common,” Kalesperis added.

The festival will also include a series of free workshops to promote humanity through art, drama, music and dance. Participants will exchange ideas on how to become champions of humanity in their respective communities.

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Delegates at the news conference yesterday at the Kigali Genocide Memorial . Courtesy.

To nurture an interest in the arts among young people, the first day of the festival has been dedicated to young audiences. The aim, say organisers, is to motivate young people to be part of the vibrant world of performing arts and to use technology for social good.

This year will see theater performances from Rwanda, Nigeria, the US, South Africa, the DR Congo, the UK, Czech Republic, Uganda, Lebanon, Belgium, India, Sweden, Iraq, and Burundi.

As part of pre-festival events, the festival will stage a flash mob dance featuring a local dance crew at the Kigali Regional Stadium in Nyamirambo on Saturday, July 8. There will also be an opening ceremony on Thursday, July 13 at Kigali Heights starting at 6p.m.

The festival will feature local performances from G.S Rugoma Secondary School from Kirehe District (Romeo and Juliet), Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (Have Mercy), and Talking Through Art (Inshuti).