In 2015, Ubumuntu Arts Festival was birthed and the yearly festival has continued to grow in scale and global recognition. The festival provides a platform for artists from all over the world to present performances dealing with difficult aspects of societal violence and human nature, from police brutality, and mass incarceration to civil war and genocide and other knotty themes.
Both the timing and location of the festival hold deep historical and moral significance. The festival takes place at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, built on the resting place of 250,000 Tutsi. The festival takes place in July during the final week of the 100-day commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.
The impact the festival has on artists and visitors, however, extends far beyond the flagship event and many attendees have returned to their respective countries to start similar festivals; building on the template of Ubumuntu Arts Festival.
Ubumuntu’s performances, workshops, panels and genocide memorial visits encourage participants to remember the past, celebrate the present, and build a more peaceful future Ubumuntu; The Kinyarwanda word for ‘humanity’, calls for unity amongst all peoples of the world, promoting love and inclusion and rejecting hatred and discrimination
After two years of being a hybrid event due to the COVID19 pandemic and lockdown, Ubumuntu Arts Festival returns to the Amphitheatre and the theme for 2022 is titled “Go Forth!” After running virtual and reaching audiences only via digital platforms for two seasons (In 2020 and 2021, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic), Africa’s premier performing arts event for social change, Ubumuntu Arts Festival, is returning to the physical stage this year.
Ubumuntu Arts Festival in 2022 will connect local and global audiences through a hybrid of live performances and virtual screenings of specially curated theatre, music and contemporary dance performances and other artistic showcases.
The festival this year is themed; Go Forth and it will run from July 14th – 17th 2022 at the Amphitheatre of the Kigali Genocide Memorial. And as it has been for the past seven years, admission is completely free.
The live performances will also be streamed to global audiences on the Ubumuntu Arts Festival Youtube Channel as well as all social media platforms. This year’s festival will feature collaborations by artists from Rwanda, Uganda, Switzerland, Germany, Bosnia, USA, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Sri-Lanka, Morocco, Belgium, The Netherlands, to name a few countries.
The festival’s curator; Hope Azeda, says “the beauty of art lies in its ability to deal with the unspeakable. Art can revisit traumatic scenarios and horrific moments in human history on an emotional level that few other methods can accomplish. Our festival confronts global topics without fear, such as police brutality, the refugee crisis, and gender violence. Above all, we encourage communities to fight hatred, dogmatism, and toxic ideas, all behaviors that precede deadly violence. Now, our mission is gradually unfolding into reality.”
I reached out to Hope Azeda to elaborate more on this year’s event. Asked what she expects this year’s event would convey?
Hope Azeda stated that; “One of the expectations from this year’s event is to showcase, how do we avoid mental stampedes dressed in jackets of panic; storming out of uncertainty and drifting in a world ruled by strange laws, while searching for a new balance. Regardless of how much time we have lost during the covid19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown; there is need to move with care and clarity lest we crash; and hence the theme, Go Forth.”
I asked Hope Azeda; “What would stand out about this year’s event?”
She responded by informing me that; “International collaborations will stand out this year 2022. Collaborations like Un: Imaginable, a collaboration between Bosnia, Rwanda, Germany. Another collaboration would be “Conference of the birds”; a collaboration between USA, Brazil, Benin, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, India and Taiwan. Yet another collaboration would be; “When I left the room”, which is a collaboration between Brazil, South Africa and The Netherlands.”