Rwanda’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity

The festival is an expression of humanity; created by Hope Azeda to bring about social change in Rwanda
Rwanda's Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity

This year marks 25 years since the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. In the years since, Rwandans have grown even stronger and proven that there is still beauty in humanity. The Ubumuntu Arts Festival is one of the fruits of the spirit of the new Rwanda.

The festival is an expression of humanity; created by Hope Azeda to bring about social change in Rwanda. Ubumuntu is a Kinyarwanda word. It means “being human”. The festival is a confluence of music, poetry, dance, and dialogue between people of all races and creeds.

When Hope Azeda started the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in 2015, she hoped to foster the African belief in a shared humanity. As the festival slogan goes, “I am because you are, you are because I am: we are human together.”

Azeda’s inspiration came from Archbishop Desmond Tutu who introduced the word ubuntu into our collective lexicon. In his words, ubuntu means, “my humanity is bound together in yours; for we can only be human together.”

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Rwanda's Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity

Every July, at the end of the 100-day Genocide commemoration period in Rwanda, people from different walks of life come together to inspire change in the world. The festival is designed to be a part of the national and international genocide commemoration activities. It aims to show that art can help us rise above the pains and struggles of being human and find joy within.

Ubumuntu Arts Festival gathers performers from Rwanda and around the world who come together to explore the trauma of conflict and the depths of the human experience.

As curator and convener of the festival, the founder and Artistic Director of Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, Azeda, has had a profound influence on contemporary Rwandan theatre. In 2018, she was honoured as a McNulty Prize Laureate for her invaluable work through the Ubumuntu Arts Festival.

The inaugural edition in 2015 attracted participants from 11 countries and a multi-cultural audience of about 5,000 arts enthusiasts on each of the two days of the festival. 

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Following its immense success, the event has grown to include two additional days involving 18 countries. Through the years, Ubumuntu Arts Festival has addressed themes such as: Connecting Art with Technology (2017); Binding Art to Resilience (2018).

This year’s edition of the festival will hold on the 12th to the 14th of July under the theme; “When walls come down-TRUTH!”

It begins with the Ikaze Night, a welcome party and celebration of music, culture and arts from all participating countries. It will hold at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition village on the 11th of July.  The event seeks to raise money to keep the festival free.

Rwanda's Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity

Ugandan Afro Soul Singer, Lilian Mbabazi will headline this year’s Ikaze Night along with Alexander Star from the USA and the band, Under The Surface from the Netherlands.

The festival is held at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Once a year -on this memorial ground- the beauty of humanity is celebrated in performances from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria, Cambodia, DRC, Ireland, Germany, Iraq, Belgium, Gabon, USA, Switzerland, South Africa, England, The Netherlands, Burundi, Syria, and Rwanda. 

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Amongst its many featured performances have been the story of the Nigerian Chibok girls and tributes to women peace builders.

The festival is supported by the Aegis Trust, which runs the Kigali Genocide Memorial on behalf of Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide. The Aegis Trust is a genocide prevention organisation working to prevent mass atrocities and build peace around the world.

What makes Ubumuntu Arts Festival? Simple. It’s; Humanity, creativity and collaboration.  

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