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Lessons From The Virtual Ubumuntu Arts Festival 2020


Photo Credit: Ubumuntu Arts Festival.<br />

The just-concluded Ubumuntu Arts Festival which held from Friday, 17th July to Sunday, 19th July 2020 was the first of its kind in Rwanda, East Africa, Africa and probably globally.

It was the first of its kind in the context of being virtual. From its inception in 2015, the Ubumuntu Arts Festival has always been held at the amphitheatre located at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda. But due to the Corona Virus pandemic which has halted the basic of flight travel; the organisers of the annual festival in its sixth edition decided to go digital/virtual in 2020 rather than cancelling or postponing
the event till 2021.

And as the festival kicked off with live streaming online via the festival’s social media platforms, it was crystal-clear it was the right decision; even though, this was unchartered territory for a festival of such nature in Rwanda, East Africa and probably, on the African Continent.

The three-day festival had a plethora of brief speeches by dignitaries including the Ambassadors to Israel and America respectively; panel discussions on varied topics with titles such as: caught between asphyxiation and anticipation; panel discussions with titles like restorative power of truth-telling.

Numerous dance pieces like bridge of roses, Sarajevo, pumua, musika, sinestesia, lacuna, place of phoenix, false manifesto, inside Van Gogh, alien woman; were also on display virtually.


Spoken word presentations such as be-you-tiful, I hate Valentine’s Day, to name a few. Performers were from the nooks and crannies of the world; Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Israel, USA, Poland, South Africa, Iraq, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, Japan, France, Iran, UK and many more.

Several features stood out with immaculacy. One feature which stood out was the high calibre of artistic presentations from those who graced the screens (you have to understand that everything was executed online.)

Another feature was the intersections between technology, locations, dance troupes, dancers cum artistes. Whilst some visuals were pre-recorded and aired on the various Livestream platforms, other visuals were live from a location in Kigali, Rwanda (Intare Arena).

Without any iota of doubt, festival organisers on the Continent would have seen the humungous possibilities in having the audacity of Hope Azeda (the founder of the festival) to not only contemplate making a festival go online but actually executing the festival to the minutest of details (probably the first arts festival to go online on the African Continent post COVID19.)

The possibilities of the success of Ubumuntu Arts Festival 2020 being virtual is a snowball effect which would become lucid in the coming weeks and months.

Succinctly put, arts festivals would not be the same post COVID19 as the Ubumuntu Arts Festival is a template of and on how to be audacious with taking festivals online.


In this article:
Dolapo AinaUbumuntu
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