causing us to retreat inside our homes and our memories. We travel back in time and join Pamela Elizabeth Acaye on her way to Ubumuntu Arts Festival 2016 and we follow the collaboration Dear Children, Sincerely... to India.
Enjoy the journey!
Ubumuntu Arts Festival: Theatre for humanity
When Human Connections make things happen
On the 13th, day of July 2016, I took a night bus from Uganda into Rwanda. 36 hours later, with a spirited cocktail of skin tone, color and tongue populating the Kigali Genocide Memorial Amphitheatre, my journey of adventure was vilified.
The 2nd edition of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival was held between the 14th and 17th of July 2016. Ubumuntu was born in 2015 to Hope Azeda and her team from Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company. It is purposefully situated at the end of the 100 day genocide commemoration time.
“There is renewal in death. A theme that people need to engage more with here.” Hope Azeda commented to me in passing. “Ubumuntu is about the story of triumphant Humanity, not the Hybrid aesthetic or the technology needed to make theatre.”
Things happen in East Africa more because of meaningful networks of change agents and good will than through money. Maija Rivenburg bought a one way ticket to Rwanda after an email introduction through her university professor to Hope Azeda whose work he had interacted with.
“I love working with Mashirika and Ubumuntu Arts Festival because my visionary focus is theatre of the oppressed, bridging the gap between performances and transforming reality. Breaking down the Egotism of arts is also important. Art should be open and accessible to all”
“Can a festival of arts and culture in Africa, by Africans, survive at all without intervention both, technical and financial from outside of Africa? A nation that has to constantly depend on other nations to aptly articulate its story is a nation on its knees.” Azeda again mentioned in passing.
Speaking of technical; the lighting at Ubumuntu was off the hook! The credit goes to Megan Lang who on the other hand heard about Ubumuntu from her university friend Angel Uwamahoro whose artistic mentoring started at Mashirika under Azeda.
If you noticed the costumes at all, they were a result of Becky Bodurthawho who created the costumes for Africa’s Hope, Movement for Humanity and Safe.Umundendezo.Aman . She bought a ticket, came and worked with local design Inez Hirwa; making them from scratch with materials bought locally at the clothe market.
The spectacle that was realized through lighting design, set, costume, movement and posture were thanks to collaborative and mostly voluntary works of these great souls, Matt Deely. This acclaimed set designer, has found soul satisfaction in Rwanda and keeps returning to get involved on creative projects at a fraction of the price he fetches internationally.
“Being a theatre practitioner should be about pursuing greater humanity than financial gain.” Matt.
All the plays and activities that showcase at Ubumuntu from performance skill to technical expertise is paired or partnered with Rwandese nationals. This probably, is Azeda's way of digging her way out of the seductive trap of dependency in the near future.
by Acaye Elizabeth Pamela
One World, One for All
As our audiences at Ubumuntu Arts Festival saw, collaborations make up a significant part of our performance program. Bringing artists from different countries and backgrounds together is a working way to understand and learn from each other. This journey of collaborating together started at the 1st edition with Dear Children, Sincerely… being a prime example of a sustainable collabortation between Sri Lanka and Rwanda.
In 2016, we had four collaborations grace our stage to share the results of their processes. Safe.Umudendezo.Aman brought Belgium-based, Iraqi theatre director Mokhallad Rasem together with Rwandan youth to create a visually stunning, interdisciplinary physical theatre piece about the human commonality to desire safety. Motherland Voices brought Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the United States together under Eliane Umuhire to amplify the silenced voices of Syrian and Burundian refugees with text, movement, and violin fusing together. Movement for Humanity was a strong contemporary dance piece by Rwanda, Uganda, and the United States that was choreographed by Hilde Cannoodt (UK) and Tjarda van Straten (Netherlands) that touched on the feeling of leaving part of one’s self behind when leaving home. The New Dictionary used comedy to highlight how media dehumanizes people while reporting on crises. It was directed by Philip Luswata and featured actors from Uganda, South Sudan, and Rwanda.
The experience of collaborating together is a unique way to combine styles and perspectives in order to create work which might not exist without a cross-cultural scope. Working in new groups that are vastly diverse is a strong asset to the arts; not only is it a kickstarter for fresh ideas but also an opportunity to expand minds. The ultimate goal of our collaborations is for long-term, professionalization of artists.
Dear Children, Sincerely... is an international theatre project initiated by Stages Theatre Group in Sri Lanka, which aims to collect the stories and experiences of the elders of a society (those close to or over 80 years old today) and take them to the present day youth in the form of storytelling and live performance. The project premiered at the Ubumuntu Festival in Rwanda in July 2015, which was directed by Ruwanthie de Chickera. Artists from Sri Lanka and Rwanda created a collection of stories that were performed collaboratively.
Collaborations are one of the strongest pillars of Ubumuntu Arts Festival because they bring artists directly together to work, share, and grow with one another. Dear Children, Sincerely… is a strong example of the profound affects of performing across borders. After its premier at the inaugural Ubumuntu Arts Festival, the performance was invited in January 2016 to the India National School of Drama’s 18th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, a prestigious nationwide festival. The Stages/Mashirika collaboration was invited to perform in Jammu and Kashimir, New Delhi, and Kerala. For some this was the first time to perform internationally. Collaboration taught them that we are each other’s bridge to our dreams.
Following enthusiastic audiences and stellar reviews, Dear Children, Sincerely… was invited once again to India in September 2016, this time to perform in Mumbai at the Metta International Theatre Festival. Long-term oriented partnerships and collaborations like Dear Children, Sincerely… are an aspiration of Ubumuntu Arts Festival to foster a unified voice through the performing arts. One world, one problem, one solution. We are human together.
by Maija Rivenburg
News of the Harvest
We are pleased to confirm our first collaboration of 2017! With support from the British Council’s New Art, New Audiences grant, a new piece of physical theatre will be made in collaboration with youth from Rwanda, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.
“Out of the Blue” (working title) will explore what it means to young in different locations. How do young people use technology to navigate their way in the world, with one foot in the physical and one foot in the virtual world? How do they engage with globalisation, politics and conflict? How does the emergence of social media change young people’s relationships with each other, with their immediate physical communities and with the wider world?