The Dear Upright African Movement.

15 May


One of my passions in life are arts and how we can promote our beautiful continent. I started my Pan African agency, so to bridge the gap between like-minded artisans, activist, and creators. Along my journey, I have worked and still work with phenomenal individuals​s, who live their lives in changing our narrative with regard to how we see ourselves​ as Africans​, how we promote ourselves and what history needs to to be corrected.
Donald Molosi is one game changer. He is a classically-trained actor and award-winning playwright. He holds an MA in Performance Studies from UCSB, a Graduate Diploma in Classical Acting from LAMDA, and a BA in Political Science and Theatre from Williams College. Molosi is featured in A United Kingdom, opposite Golden Globe and Emmy award nominee David Oyelowo and Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike. The film depicts the marriage of Prince Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams in the 1940s and the uniting of the people of Botswana. Molosi divides his time between Botswana and the rest of Africa. His second book, We Are All Blue has been named one of 2016’s most prominent African Books by several literary journals including Writivism.
In 2017, he wrote a thought-provoking​ essay, which received​ great reviews globally. It also received​ some criticism​​m from people who refuse to acknowledge the negative effects​ that colonialism had on our cuture, tradition, identity, ​and ultimately how we see ourselves.

The essay:

Dear Upright African,

I am reminded of six years ago. I had just flown into Johannesburg from Kampala. I was in Johannesburg to do a screen test for a TV series about Botswana. Before the screen test was over I had already landed one of the lead roles. Of course, I was elated, mostly because even though I was enjoying an award-winning acting career on-Broadway and off-Broadway in New York City, I still had the firm desire to do something at home. A week later I was in Gaborone, script in hand, and ready to film. Then an email from the series producers popped up on my phone saying that after “much careful thought and consideration” I had been dropped from the production for “not looking African enough.” The news was more infuriating than disappointing. I found myself wishing they had told me that I had been dropped because I had not been a good enough actor during the screen tests, or that I was asking for too much money. But to say that I did not fulfill​l some British self-styled Africanist director’s zoological notion of what an African looks like was to abuse even my ancestors. I tell you, Upright African, you and I must write and perform many-many stories about the Africa we know where my perfect teeth are not remarkable.

Internalized Oppression seeped into our young minds every time our teachers congratulated us for speaking well, “like a proper Brit” and in the same breath ridiculed us for having Afro-textured hair. British merchant John Locke, in 1561 wrote that Africans were “people without heads.” Trust me, Upright African, to pretend that I don’t have a head (even mind) would have been a ​difficult thing for me to do in high school, or in that audition room in Johannesburg. Locke also describes Africans as people with “their mouths and eyes in their breasts.” Now that would be pure comedy if that sort of language and imagery had not animalized and thingified the African so profoundly in the West’s imaginary that it is partly how Europe justified (to herself and the rest of us) her brutal colonisation of a third of the world. Perhaps Locke would be hilarious if, ​in 1829, European taxidermists had not exhumed the body of a Tswana King to exhibit it in the same way as a trophy animal in Spain for the ​amusement of Europeans who had not seen a Black man before. Perhaps asking me to perform a zoological Africanness would not be insolent if Saartjie Baartman had not been trafficked from the Cape into to being a dancing sex-slave for Parisians at Palais Royal and Londoners at Piccadilly Circus simply because of so-called steatopygia, the “condition” of having a big butt, which apparently rendered her more like an animal and therefore inferior to the European.

When I predictably lived in Paris years after high school I almost-instinctively knew how to catch the metro from Villejuif to Centre Pompidou to Porte de Montreuil. I therefore found myself questioning my education almost obsessive-compulsively​: what study of French history and culture (in a Botswana school) had this been that it almost-by-definition had to displace people who look like me and you out of story whilst the bloody Eiffel tower itself was built by enslaved Africans who died in the process and whose bones remain under the magnificent monument? What if in that high school class you and I had learnt not just about the great French singers Patricia Kaas and Edith Piaf but also about their equally great contemporary Josephine Baker and how she wrote a competing narrative with her body, claiming the agency of the black female body on stage, in Paris no less? How different might our consciousness have been at that age as products of “international” schools? Would we have spent so many disorienting years after high school apologizing for (not) being African? What if we had simply learnt about African empires instead of French history? You see, we also belong in history as protagonists and not just as supporting characters. Upright African, we must also make dolls that look like little African girls. Perhaps I digress but you get me.

When the grand story of David Livingstone’s peripatetic exploits across Africa is told in Big-British-Books-On-African-History used in African schools, private or public, it introduces us to his African aides, Susi and Chuma. We are told that Susi and Chuma were loyal servants to David Livingstone. We are also told that Susi and Chuma were so loyal to David Livingstone that when he died at a location described as “the centre of Africa,” Susi and Chuma risked their own lives by carrying Livingstone’s embalmed body for months from modern day Zambia all the way to the coast of modern-day​ Tanzania so that the body could be shipped off to London for burial. Now, what if we dared to tell the stories of Susi and Chuma not just as servants but also as – to use that fancy term reserved for Europeans – ‘explorers?’ What if in our version of missionary history we also saw Africa through Susi and Chuma’s eyes? Would we not see that Ilala, the Zambian village where Livingstone died, is in fact not the center of Africa but simply a case in colonial cartography full of self-serving symbolism?

I wrote We Are All Blue because beneath the Grand Narratives of global history lie African stories waiting for you and me, Upright Africans in the world, to truthfully tell back into our Consciousness. With no apology. For our own humanity’s sake!

-Donald Molosi

Donald has recently published another book, Dear Upright African. His European book​ launch​ took place at the African Book Festival Berlin 2019. The African Book Festival aims to summon the finest in African and Afro-diasporic​ writing to Berlin. The event was curated by award-winning writer and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga from Zimbabwe. With Ben Okri, the festival’s headliner is another literary giant from Nigeria.
This year the event focused thematically on transitions, change, upheaval and future visions – in a literal as well as figurative sense: How do African writers interpret the issue of crossing borders and trespassing, physically but also stylistically. How are personal experiences and changes in location reflected in poetry? Which political upheavals are picked up on in fiction and how are they interpreted? In which ways can and do African thinkers influence current situations.

To book him as a speaker, consultant, linguist or trainer​, please contact​ us


Diani Beach, one of East Africa’s palatial​ secrets.

8 May


My three passions in life are Women, Africa, and the arts. I have always had a crazy obsession for East Africa, Uganda in particular so when I get the chance to explore the rest of the region, I jump in with open arms. Upon receiving an invitation to a destination wedding, that was to be held in Diani Beach, Mombassa. I reached for my passport, yellow fever card and planned away. The designated travel agent for the wedding was Travelneza. TravleNeza was founded by entrepreneur and travel guru, Laura Batamuliza Kagame.

TravelNeza is a Ugandan based travel agency that specializes in creating custom travel arrangements for both corporate and leisure clientele. Laura’s passion for travel and seeing the world in its entire colour gave her a steadfast determination to help others plan and live out their travel dreams. The agency has been in operation for over a decade now, she has built up a team of well-traveled, knowledgeable and passionate travel designers who derive great enjoyment out of planning personalized and unique experiences for each of their clients. They surely pride in going the extra mile for the customer, never forgetting that special, personal touch.

On route to Diani:

Diani is where the sun comes to play, with an all year tropical climate. It is a major beach resort on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, located 30 kilometres south of Mombasa. It is made up of magnificent sun-kissed white sandy beaches.
It has been voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the third time running since 2015.
What you will need:
A yellow fever card, obtained through any travel clinic. For more advice on vaccinations go to,

My adventure:

I chose Rwandair as my airline of choice and left OR Tambo International airport from Johannesburg, in the early hours of the morning on the 26t April and landed in Kigali, Rwanda for a three-hour layover. I did not mind the long wait as it gave me the opportunity to have a few cups of my favourite coffee. I had the opportunity of visiting Rwanda a few weeks prior, you can read about my adventure here,

Before I knew it, I was boarding the Rwandair flight to Mombassa, the flight takes approximately two hours, which gives you a chance to have a light meal and a small nap. As we disembarked we were taken in by the astounding Mombassa humidity. The customs and passport control was quick and efficient​ and only took a few minutes. Side note, as a South African, you only need a visa to Kenya, if you plan on staying longer than 90 days.
Our bags arrived and we congregated at the entrance to the airport where the Travelneza ground staff welcomed us. We checked our names on the list and then we wer escourted to our bus.
I was rather intrigued​ whislt driving through ​the ​downtown of Mombassa as every building was not only built the same but painted in a uniform colour of white and blue.
The back story behind that is that the owners of residential and commercial buildings in Mombasa’s Central Business District all started painting their structures with a uniform colour. This came about after a public notice issued to residents by the county administration in March 2018, directing that all buildings should be painted white with blue colour, symbolizing the Indian Ocean. This is part of a plan to make the coastal coats as beautiful​ as the Indian ocean.

“The buildings should be in white with Egyptian blue border on the edges and windows above without any sign written on the wall or canopy,” read the notice signed by Transport, Infrastructure and Public Works CeC Tawfiq Balala.

The Governor Hassan Ali Joho announced his administration had embarked on the plan that would see both Mombasa CBD and Old Town painted in a uniform colour.

The adventure continues:
After traveling​ for approximately 30 to 40 minutes we arrived at the​ Ferry port, we were greeted with copious amounts of commuters and padestrains waiting to cross ove onto the island. Unfortunately,​​​ photographs were forbidden. There are two huge ferrys that transport cars, trucks, taxis, ​and pedestrians across.
The actual ferry process took about 20 minutes and then we proceeded through the town, then into the rural are and othen we finally saw the sign Diani Beach.

The wedding party was​ divided into two main hotels, being The Swahili Beach Resort and Leopard Beach resort.
For the​ weekend I was booked into the Swahili​ beach resort and then for the last​ two days, I​ would move to​ The Leopard​ beach resort.

On arrival at the opulent​ hotel, we disembarked​ from the bus, I was met with the most​ spectacular​r grand hotel entrance​. The receptionst gave us a rather delicious and thirst quesnching cocktail. I could pick up lemon, honey, soda, ​and a tangy sensation, we deduced that it must be their virgin-verson f the well know DAWA cocktail. Registration was swift and then we were escourted to our little spaces of heaven, I was fortunate to be on the top floor on the left side of the hotel, overlooking the pool area. Upon entering the room set for a queen, there is a small passageway​, then an open space to hang your clothes. On the right handside is the open bath and shower, accomapnie by​ double​ wash basins. Each toilet has its own bidet. The huge King size fourposter bed had the most comfortable mattress on it. Every night, the staff released the mosquito​ net to cover the four posters, so you are not affected by any unwanted insects​. I have to admit, I was not affected by any mosquitos at all. The room led out onto a huge balcony that overlooked the pool area of the hotel, which then led to the beach. I was in African heaven.

The architecture​ is designed around different cultural influences and has a beautiful fusion of African, Indian, Arabian and Zanzibari influences, with long arches, Arabic​ architecture and Swahili​ finishes.
The poolside area was made up a huge, winding pool that surrounded a central pool bar area. There is an ​apmle lounge area for sunbathers​ and the whole pool is shallow so no need to worry about the children, or if you​ cannot swim, you can float or waft around.
The pool is surrounded by more buildings​ of residency which then leads​ down a path towards another pool area looking over the ocean. At this pool, there is a restaurant area and also sun beds and lounges to relax. This was my perfect spot as the slight wind from the ocean​ broke​ through the humidity and also the sounds of the waves crashing catapulted​ me into a daydream state​​e. I finally​ could block​ out the stresses​ of Jozi life and relax and enjoy the free-flowing​ spirit in the air.

My cocktail of choice for my trip was the Dawa, but the original one with a double kick, after all,​ I was on vacation.

The restaurants- The resort​ ​boasts three restaurants.
1. ​Bahraini​ Beach Restaurant​ offers an a la carte menu including burgers, grills, ​and seafood.

2. Zanzibar Seafood Restaurant​ explores a pan-Asian a la carte menu and 2 Teppanyaki tables. Fresh Kenyan seafood is brought in by fishermen every morning and cooked in a contemporary style.

3. Majilis Restaurant, meaning ‘gathering or meeting place’, Majilis is the main dining restaurant. Enjoy buffets with different cuisines every night. From Swahili to Italian and everything in between this is your first stop on your culinary travels. ​This is where​ breakfast is served.

Destination wedding.
The main wedding destination was at The Leoprad Beach resort, which was a few metres away from The Swahili Beach resort​. Through Travelneza tours, we had our​ own chauffered buses and cars to transport between​ hotels. For regular guests, it will​​ you approx​ 300 Kenyan​ shillings​ by Taxi or Tuk-tuk, which are available​ at the gate of the hotel.

The Leopard Beach.
The wedding guests were​ hosted to a rehearsal​ dinner at an area of the resort called, THE RESIDENCES. This​ is a villa complex which includes an​ Asian-fusion specialty restaurant, called the Lemongrass – with an adjoining Grasshopper cocktail bar overlooking a rock pool. Here we enjoyed our meal, met the rest of the guets which totalled nearly 200, we danced the night away and celebrated the anticpiated love union, whch was to be cemented the follwoing day.

The Wedding:
The wedding ceremony took place on the beach in front of the hotel. It was a magnificent setting in the sand on the shoreline, with the beautiful backdrop of the​ crsip blue ocean. The added touch​ was that the programme was printed on fans, so to help guests ease away for the​ Mombassa humidity.
After the nuptials​ and ululating were completed, we were ushered to a rooftop area, were we enjoed East african cocktails whilst watching the powerful sun, set over the Indian ocena.
The dinner, speeches​, entertainment, ​and dancing took place around​​ the pool area and once​ again, we were treated to delicious Asian-fused with East African cuisine​​n.

After the wedding party departed, I checked out of Swahili​ Beach Resort​ and was booked into Leopard Beach Resort for an additional two nights. Thanks to Laura from Travelneza, she secured a full villa for me.
Each villa is located in the Residences and comes equipped with a private pool and small garden. The interior​ includes a main bedroom on suite​​ and the​ ​second bedroom with twin beds on suite. There is a luxurious lounge area and a dining​ room and bookshelf, to wind down from a hot day on the beach. The lounge is also equpped with a flatscreen TV, and DVD. But with the magnificnet surroundsings of the Diani, I did not even think of turning the TV on.

The resort​ also boasts other rooms and beachfront villas, with the same​ amenities.
There​ are​ a pool and a side restaurant which leads onto a private beach.

Other excursions.
Travelneza secured an all-day​ adventure​ for us. We were collected from​ the hotel and driven by air conditioned buses to the other side​ of the island, where we boarded a Dhow and went off on a cruise adventure, of dolphin searching, snorkeling, copious​ amounts of laughter and enjoying​​g the powerful African sun, giving thanks​ to our exsistence. We then docked on a small islan​d​ and were met with its inhabitants with a delicious fresh Swahili sea food lunch.
My adventure​ will always be one to be remembered and I will be back to explore the rest of the island.

For assiatnce with planning the perfect destaination wedding, girls or boys getaway or naughty retreats, please call on Laura to book your trip.
Contact details for Travelneza,they have offices in Uganda, Rwanda​ , ​and Kenya​.

Crane Plaza, Kisementi 1st floor f12, Kampala – Uganda.
Phone: +256 772 361866

KG552#48 Nyarutarama, Kigali – Rwanda.
Phone: +250 782 029803

3rd Floor, Amal Plaza, Links Road – Kenya.
Phone: +254 725 995389


The deadly beat of abuse!

6 May

We live in a country where rape and abuse have become a normal way of life. It has permeated our culture and society so much that women and men have become so disillusioned by the facts and atrocities, which have led to people supporting the abuse, make excuses for abusers and rapists and in some cases making a mockery out of abuse.
The rape of South African women is among the highest in the world, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA)revealed in​ a study that was released in 2017.


To give an example to my opening statement, let us take a look at the Babes Wodumo ( Bongekile Simelane) abuse case. I am not going to use the terminology of allegations, as we have video evidence of her recording her being beaten up by Big Nuz musician and assault accused, Mandla “Mampintsha” Maphumulo. This video was posted in March 2019.
I will not post the video here as it is far too gruesome but it basically shows Babes Wodumo setting her social media page to a live video, then in the background, we see and hear her being beaten. In the live video, Babes was singing in a dimly lighted bedroom when DJ Mampintsha suddenly grabs and slapped her repeatedly. Even with her in tears, she asked him why he was beating her.
As horrfiic as the video was, this is not the first time that the abuse had been discussed. It was last year Masechaba Ndlovu was highly criticised for using her radio platform to unleash the dark secret of Babes, then alleged abuse. I was one of the many who criticied her, not for talking about it but for the manner in which it was done. It was incredibly worrying and concerning that no measures were put in place to protect the survivor. Through POWA we tried to make contact with the radio station so to prevent it from happening again. Our concerns were that there was no counselor in place, what would have happened if the survivor had a mental breakdown? Without professional assistance​, it could have had serious effects​​s on her well being. Our other concern was that since the survivor was not prepared and had not receieved any or adequate psyco-social support she would probably go back to her abuser and the absue would then be worse, if not kill her. Fortunately, she is still alive but through proof of the video that went viral, we see that the abuse continued, she may have survived it this time but for how long?

The aftermath of the video.
After the video went viral, huge amounts of support were rallied for her. I emailed the record label, Afrotainment, headed y DJ Tira Khathi, his response to my mail is attached below. Many called for the banning of Mampintsha’s music. This is all well and good but we must understand that abusers are manipulative calculating and narcissistic beings. Let us look at the history of their union,
When Mampintsha started working with her, bare in mind she was a teenager, he was able to groom her and make her dependent on him. Discovering that her God-given talent could make money, he needed to cash in on that, so he attached his name to every one of her songs. So muting him, would mean muting her, or does it?

DJ Tira

As our society is driven by patriarchy and misogyny, she along with many others believe that she cannot be successful without him, Wrong!!!! Her talent and brand are strong enough to stand on their own.
The obvious and logistic challenges that face her are, that she would have to start recording new material under her own name and label. Not so easy for a young brand but with the correct guidance and management, it is possible. She would also have to legally remove herself from her existing record label, which as history has dictated, it is not easy for musicians to do,
The biggest challenge, however, will be to get counselling and try and find healing from all the emotional, psychological and physical abuse. Part of the issues that we face with victims of abuse is that the emotional and psychological abuse are the first signs of abuse in a relationship, this is why it’s difficult for so many victims to leave. I use the word victims in this case as they feel and believe they cannot get out and in most cases believe that they deserve it. At POWA we highlight the different levels of abuse from psychological and emotional, to financial, sexual and physical. All types​ of abuse are tragic and difficult to break, and the emotional and psychological often results in victims returning their ​abusive homes or relationships. They have been brainwashed into making excuses for​ the abuser and shifting the blame to themselves. Look at many case studies and court rulings, the one question that is always​ asked, is Why did you not leave? Well in most cases it is not that easy. With this level of abuse, one’s​ self-esteem​ is broken​ down.

His reaction to the video and allegations were literally textbook​ cases. He automatically denied the actions, despite the proof, then played the victim, then he tried to discredit​ her, then he went back to the victim playing and now we are in the dangerous phase, where she is undermining and ridiculing her own struggle. We have seen in previous cases, where victims have found the strength to speak out but with lack of adequate support and guidance, they fall back into the manipulation and begin second-guessing​​​ themselves and their statements​. Her latest video that was released​ over​ the past weekend is a ​testament​ to that.
The video features Mampintsha, Babes Wodumo, ​and DJ Tira. The song titled Khona Iyngane Lay’Ndlini (meaning: “There are children in the house”) makes reference to what Mampintsha said to Babes in a video allegedly depicted him abusing the singer in March.

I had received the news that she was involved with him again, and we reached out to her, showing love and letting her know that although​ we don’t​ agree with her choice, we will respect it.
Then through a post by Phil Mphela, he questioned​ my stand on the new video, since I had not seen it, I watched it and had to watch again. I admit to being appalled​ and disgusted by it as it is a blatant portrayal​ of diresepcet for victims and​ survivors of abuse​, as she has ridiculed the pain, placed him in​ an innocent light and made a mockery​ of the whole crime.
Then I​ mulled over it and realized​ that it made sense​, as it falls in line ​with the next stage in the cycle​​ of abuse,​ discrediting her and if possible destroying her. Her soul is already crushed and through this new video, it could lead to her losing​ many fans and supporters, thus breaking down her career. He will then probably​y move on and create other songs and still live off the dividend​s of their collaboration​ songs. At the end of the day, she has been muted.

The twitter posts.

So what is the solution for Babes and other​ victims?
Our government​ needs to fully acknowledge​​d that we are in a state of crisis. ​As a society​,​ we​ need to adjust our mindsets​ and the way we see ourselves and change the archaic​ ideologies​​ around gender and the lack of gender equality​. Through this change, we can begin to shift the rape culture and​ toxic masculinity that has guided us for so many centuries.
We need a shift in attitudes from our law enforcement​ and ultimately​ we need to challenge​ our judicial​ systems​. ​It is a lot of work, it is not easy but we need to start somewhere and we need to start now.

Contact details for POWA-

Rwanda’s catalyst​ for Hope!

9 Apr

My passions in life are Women, Africa, and the arts. On a recent visit to Rwanda, I had the opportunity of meeting the countries most celebrated artist and activist, Hope Azeda. I was introduced to Hope through one of my Ugandan sister, Fiona Marwa. It was the last day of my trip in Kigali and had a limited amount of time but Fiona insisted that I touch base with Hope, who was also trying to push through a crazy work schedule. I was fortunate enough as she made time between her meetings, rehearsals and running Rwanda’s top performing arts centre.
We met at a beautiful book shop in Kigali, which had the most breathtaking view that saw endless hills and immaculate gardens. On sitting down with her, her energy and spirit ignited my soul. I knew that although we had set aside 30 minutes to talk, it will be worthwhile.

So who is Hope Azeda?
Hope is the director and founder of the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company.
Hope Azeda was born in Uganda. Her parents, Norman and Beatrice, were born and lived in Rwanda but fled to neighbouring Uganda in 1959 as a result of increasing ethnic tensions following a Hutu uprising against Tutsi leadership.
Hope is one of 11 children and her sibling’s life in Uganda was spent living at a hospital residence, where her mother worked as a midwife. Her father lived and worked at a refugee camp, teaching maths and French. Hope later went on to study at Namasagali College in Eastern Uganda, where her love and passion for the arts began. This led to her pursuing a career in music, dance, and drama. Growing up, Hope’s relatives had told her how beautiful Rwanda was, so it had always been a childhood dream of Hope’s to return to Rwanda – a place she called home despite never having lived there. In 1998, Hope followed her dream and moved to Kigali. It was not easy as she had no friends there and was not fluent in Kinyarwanda or French (two of the languages spoken in Rwanda). Many of her family lived in Rwanda but unfortunately became victims of the Rwandan genocide.

Soon after her arrival in Rwanda, Hope founded the Mashirika Performing Arts Media Company in Kigali. At first, she used to sit with her students under a tree and work, they now work from a beautiful house in Kigali.
When she arrived in Rwanda, there was no infrastructure. She went on to say “the country was on its knees. It was in ashes and was trying to rise. As an artist, your instinct takes you there – what can I do?.

As we began chatting in the coffee shop, we realized that we needed a lot more time together and so he invited me to come and visit the centre and sit in on a rehearsal. A few hours later I arrived and a beautiful colourful house. As you enter, the entrance hall is a mirrored room, with beautiful quotes on the wall. The rest of the house is made of a kitchen and an office and I was led outside to the upstairs terrace, where the students are rehearsing for the show.
The terrace, like most of the ​Rwandan terraces,​ overlooks another spectacular view of Kigali’s rolling hills and perfectly manicures laws.

Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company.

Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company were established in 1997. Through different modes of performance including dance, movement, music, drama, and spoken word, Mashirika is constantly exploring new ways to develop, learn and create exciting theatre. The company uses the arts as a tool for social transformation. Partnering with organizations such as the Aegis Trust and the Ministry of Justice, Mashirika has produced many films, plays, and performances based on the causes and prevention of genocide, the Gacaca proceedings (a system of community justice in Rwanda, to help with community rebuilding) and the importance of unity and reconciliation. Mashirika uses performing arts to engage the audience, and teach about important issues. Through its use of interactive theatre and forum theatre, Mashirika is at the forefront of theatre for development; demonstrating its mission that performing art can be Mashirika Theatre Company

The mission
The Mashirika Performing Arts Media Company mission is to prove that performing arts is not only entertainment but a tool of social transformation and source of employment. Mashrika uses drama as a tool for social transformation, its productions intended to teach, commemorate and raise awareness of important issues.

Topics of plays have ranged from reconciliation to sexism and AIDS. Plays are taken to communities in villages and markets, intended to create platforms for civic dialogues to encourage development and reconciliation. Mashirika has been at the forefront of using theatre for development, using forms like interactive theatre, image theatre, forum theatre.

Combining art and activism:
As the Genocide had taken the front stage in the Rwandan narrative, Hope decided to use that as a way to find healing, create awareness and establish a brighter and positive platform for those to come.
The production, Africa’s Hope, was a theatre production which was commissioned in 2004 for the 10th anniversary of the genocide, more than 1,000 performers drew on personal testimonies from the war. Its running time was 100 minutes, which represented the 100 days of the genocide. The play was performed in Rwanda and in Edinburgh for the G8 World Summit in 2005. It also recently toured 15 schools and theatres in the UK.
The subject matter was incredibly difficult and it dealt with emotions and trauma through the eyes of a child. Hope, felt that as adults, they had messed up and wanted to explore the narrative through the eyes of the children.

Her other works and projects since have dealt with other social topics from sexism to Aids, often performed in sites ranging from refugee camps to open football pitches and village halls.

Ubumuntu Arts Festival.

In 2015, with a grant from the African Leadership Initiative, Hope set up the annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival, bringing music, dance, art and theatre to the amphitheater at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It attracts about 5,000 people per day. Azeda chose the venue not only for its symbolic value, but also because the performances give Rwandans a way to engage with the conflict both individually and as a group, or through what she calls “public introspection”. “The set is well-dressed, the scenography is there… It crosses into your own internal conversation,” she says.

The G25 production
G25 is the latest theatre production, will commemorate 25 years since the end of the Genocide. When I visited the centre, I sat in on their rehearsals for this production. The production will be performed in two phases in Rwanda, after which it will be staged in New York. For the first phase of the production, Mashirika will collaborate with artists from the UK and Argentina, and their joint piece will be performed on April 12, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Amphitheatre, to coincide with the start of the official genocide commemoration period. The second phase of the production will see further collaboration between Rwandan artists and those from the U.S, and the performance will be staged at this year’s edition of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in July, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Amphitheatre. The production will then be staged in New York, in the US. On the production, Hope​ says, “The theatrical performance will be a collective of young voices questioning the past as they take on the responsibility of being guardians of a dark history they were never part of. The big question at hand would be; ‘why did one million people die in 100 days, in a country they love, with beautiful people and a beautiful culture’?”
Azeda described G25 as “an open script of global concerns”, as the issues it seeks to address are not unique to only Rwanda, but rather a rallying call to global young voices to be authors of their own destiny.​

My time with the performers at their rehearsals​ and a few pictures taken in the house.

Through Waka talent agency, we aim to work​​ with The Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company and Ubumuntu Arts Festival with the aim of creating​ powerful Pan African​ synergies​s that tell our stories, in the most authentic way.

Rwanda- The land of a thousand hills

9 Apr


My three passions in life are Women, Arica, and the arts. When I founded my Pan African talent agency, Waka Talent, in 2011, my dream was to have a footprint and synergies with territories across Africa. Rwanda was one of the countries that were in my Pan African expansion plans.
I, like many people, was awakened to the country Rwanda through the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Through the media, we were fed a few of the facts that the Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda during the Rwandan Civil War, which started in 1990. It was said to have been directed by members of the Hutu majority government during the 100-day period from 7 April to 15 July 1994. At that time in my life, I was uneducated about the history of our continent, as our educational system was based on the biased and untrue view through the eyes of the colonizers.
In 1994, I was in a relationship with a boy who was of Rwandan origin and before the brutal break-up, I was able to hear of the harrowing stories of how his family fled the country. I remember a few days, whilst visiting them in their Johannesburg home, the family were incredibly worried, as their grandmother had gone missing from her village in Rwanda but was soon discovered after walking for days, she was then brought to South Africa to live with the family. Although she did not speak English the pain and trauma in her eyes spoke volumes.
Fast forward to 2004, I was cast in one of the first films made on the genocide, Hotel Rwanda. Once again the trauma and history intrigued me.

My Rwandan experience.
The background.
Rwanda is a republic in central and eastern Africa. Uganda is to its north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Over the years, it has been reported that the capital city, Kigali is the safest city in Africa. I was rather overwhelmed at the sense of calmness and as a global citizen who has traveled to many cities, I can honestly say that I felt 100% safe, walking the streets, lying in bed or exploring in the middle of town. The streets are immaculate, the people, like the rest of East Africa, are welcoming, humble and wonderful to talk to. On my morning walks,​ I was welcomed to the magnificent landscape of rolling hills, organised traffic, Bod-Boda driver (Motorbike taxis) and as mentioned before, a wonderful​ sense​ of calmness.

On the streets of Kigali.

Since the end of the Genocide, the country has been socially and politically stable. As a result, agriculture, roads, mining, and tourism have developed. The government also placed itself as the leader in gender equality principles.

The Memrorial.
On visiting the genocide memorial, I learned many interesting facts but the one that stood out the most was the truth behind the fraction between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, facts that media have not revealed.
This is what i discovered-
Humans migrated to what is now Rwanda after the last ice age. Hunter-gatherers settled the area in the late Stone Age and were followed by early Iron Age settlers. These were ancestors of the Twa, a group of Pygmy hunters who still remain in Rwanda. Additional migrations took place between 700 BC and 1500 AD. This divided society into three groups which are the Hutu, Tutsis, and the original Twas. For centuries, these three groups live in harmony, it was only when the colonizers entered the territory, did they create the tension and hierarchy between the Hutus and Tutsis. It was in 1884, the Berlin Conference assigned Germany Ruanda-Urundi. German East Africa was then formed when this area was combined with Tanganyika. In 1894, Gustav Adolf von Gotzen explored the country. The Germans favored the Tutsi group and help suppress the Hutu group of people. During World War I, the Belgians took the territory.

It was World War I, Rwanda became a League of Nations mandate with Belgium in control. Belgium also kept the class system in place and promoted Tutsi supremacy. They also considered the groups to be different races and created identity cards labeling each person a member of the Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa group. They based this classification on arbitrary physical characteristics. This fact, sent shivers down my spine as it reminded me of the South Africa apartheid laws of classifying black people, with the pencil test.
(The pencil test is a method of assessing whether a person has Afro-textured hair. In the pencil test, a pencil is pushed through the person’s hair. How easily it comes out determines whether the person has “passed” or “failed” the test. This test was used to determine racial identity in South Africa during the apartheid era, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. The test was partially responsible for splitting existing communities and families along perceived racial lines. Its formal authority ended with the end of apartheid in 1994. It remains an important part of South African cultural heritage and a symbol of racism.)

This friction continued after World War II, here the two groups emerged and became rivals, one based on the Tutsi elite and the other based on Hutu emancipation.
This rivalry continued throughout the ages right up until the known 1994 Genocide.
My time at the memorial was traumatic as the two-hour tour gives you insight into the back history. Picture, artifacts, clothes, personal items are on display. There is also a beautiful rose garden of remembrance, where families can go and show respect to their family members and friends that were killed in the genocide. As a group, we laid a wreath on the tombs and said a prayer.

The Mashariki film festival.
Earlier this year, I reached out to the Mashariki Film festival as I wanted to create a synergy between them and my agency, They responded​ and we entered​​ into a partnership​.
I flew into​ Kigali​ for​ the festival, which​ is in its 5th edition. My agency was an official partner and I also sat on the jury for the African​ feature film category. I wanted to host an acting and producers master class but the schedule was full, so on my​ next visit in the year, I plan to see Waka Agency can work with actors and performers​ from​. They are a performance art​ and​d media company, not affiliated to the festival but have been in existence for nearly two decades. ​

– Opeing night of The festival.

The festival categories were made up of the following:
African feature films, African short films, African documentaries, East African feature films, East African short films, East African, and national short films. Each category had a team of three jury members, assigned to watch, critique and analyze each submission.
The jury groups were made up of film and industry practitioners​ from across the world. My jury included Klaus Keli​ from Germany and Kivu Ruhorahoza, from Rwanda.
Klaus, a revered filmmaker​​ educator​ , ​and trainer, who has worked extensively in Europe and has been instrumental in training in East Africa, particularly in Rwanda. Kivu is internationally known for his feature film Grey Matter which won the Jury Special Mention for Best Emerging Filmmaker at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and the Ecumenical Jury special mention at the 2011 Warsaw Film Festival. He also won the Grand Prize of the Tübingen French Film Festival, Best Director and Signis Award of the Cordoba African Film Festival and the Jury Special Prize of the Khouribga Film Festival in Morocco.

We were given the task of watching​ 12 full-length​ feature films with the aim of sourcing the best in the selection. The films submitted came from all African territories​ from South Africa,​ Kenya, Morocco​, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and others. Of the jury’s​ that I have​ sat on, I have to say that this selection was incredibly tough, the majority of the films were all high​ callibre.
After many hours of debate, deliberation, a few​ disagreements​s, we all agreed that the best film in our selection came from Morocco.

The film Indigo by Selma Bargach.
Indigo is the color blue of the aura given by a psychic to children who have the gift of clairvoyance​. This is shown through the main character, Nora. The actress, Rim Kettani is a first-time actress and is only 13 years old, she brilliantly narrated the story of a young girl who is confronted with violence and the world of the irrational.
The filmmaker​​ did an excellent​​t job in narrating the story and directing the film, creating magnificent​​t mise-en-scene and emotionally driven scenes.
We as the jury believed​ that the story has universal appeal.

The lack of gender equality.
As Rwanda has become known as one of the most gender equal territories, I was rather disappointed at the lack of representation​ of female filmmakers. On the opening night, there was very little mention of the female input to the festival, The festival has a platform titled, ‘Girls in film’. At first, this intrigued me as I saw it as a possible platform for young girls to learn the world of filmmaking, only to discover that the platform is for women who have graduated in film and working as producers and filmmakers. Another alarming incident was on the closing night, along with other jury members and delegates, both male and female, it was noted and discussed the lack of female representation in speeches, acknowledgment, and presence. The prize for the best actress was awarded by an all-male delegation and as the emcee stated the most powerful filmmakers in Rwanda. I find that worrying as there are many female filmmakers and practitioners who could have added value to that. The snide and below the belt comment from the emcee was also unwelcomed by many, it went along the lines of perhaps the actress knows each of the male representatives personally. We need to move away from that type of language. After the comment, there was an uncomfortable silence from the audience. I have brought these facts up with the organizers but being the feminist that I am,I have also made contact with local female filmmakers on how we can work together as African filmmakers and writers, so to ensure this gender disparity does not occur again. The festival has welcomed the suggestion.

Other activities.
In between my jury duties, workshop attendance and watching films, I managed to experience some of Rwandan city life. My Kenyan sister, Nyambura Waruinzi and I treated ourselves to steak at a lovely restaurant​, close to our residence. The food was delicious, ambiance​​ and decor were​ magical, a little pricey but worth the experience. When two powerful​ Africa​n female forces get together over red wine and a meal, it can only lead greatness. Watch this space for future Kenya​- SA projects​.

After our meal, we met up with our other delegates​​s for a night of dancing, laughter, ​and fun.

I also was treated to true Rwandan cuisine​, thanks to my Jury colleague, Kivu.

We had Cassava leaves known as Isombe, Chicken curry, spicy aubergine with potatoes​ and chicken​ curry, East​ African style.

On another day I had the opportunity​ of having a meeting at the Ikirezi Bookstore. This book​ store hosts a bouquet of African​ authors and hopefully will stock my book soon. The book store is close to downtown Kigali and has a spectacular view.

My love for East Africa has now been extended to Rwanda, I would like to give special thanks to my superb hosts Jean de Dieu Ngirabaganwa, the Assistant Coordinator of the festival. He is also a revered director, camera operator, ​and fixer in Rwanda. Our on the ground hosts, Mwiza Gloria, Didier Mpatha and Bingo Regis. All three ensured we were happy at all times, drove us to the necessary destinations and shared the beautiful East African hospitality. They truly made our stay a memorable one.
To my new family and friends who stayed at the same apartment compound as me as well as the other delegates, thank you for the laughs, honest conversations and for sharing delicate and beautiful stories.

When creative Africans unite.

Look out for my next blog where I will share my time with some ofRwanda’s most talents performers.

Until next time Murakoze Urakoze, Asante Sana, thank you!!​

My formal complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality against​ SWIFT

18 Mar

Ms.​ Rosie Motene has lodged a formal complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality in February 2018 regarding SWIFT SWIFT – Sisters Working in Film and Television
The complaint was based on the following alleged issues:
– The organisation was established in 2016 and has positioned itself as an aid to assist with curving sexual harassment and helping sexual survivors within the SA film & TV industry. Since its start, SWIFT did not attempt to align itself with a gender-based organisation for consulting and support.
– After the allegation surfaced regarding filmmaker Khalo Matabane, Rosie Motene and their survivors approached the organisation for assistance. Through the board and chairperson, Sara Blecher, they were offered legal assistance and support, which did not surface.
– Ms. Motene has raised concerns on the alleged protection of Ms. Carew against survivors.
– Ms. Motene is concerned with the legal letter issued by​ Ms.​ Carew and SWIFT asking for a round table between herself, SWIFT, NFVF, IPO. A letter which Ms. Motene replied through her lawyer but as not received any reply for the complainant.
Ms. Motene acknowledges the work put in by the government and the organisation on skills development and traveling to film markets around the world but is concerned with the lack of resources and transparency around assisting survivors of abuse and sexual assault. Through the personal and online assistance and correspondence, Ms. Motene and other survivors were not given adequate support​​ and at some point, a survivors concern was dismissed by Sara Blecher by her statement that the survivor is unstable, due to her PTSD. We agree that PTSD is a serious issue but no support was given at that point.
In an interview on Radio 702, the SWIFT spokesperson stated that the had reached out to POWA and Ms. Rosie Motene for assistance. This is untrue as in 2018, it was Ms. Motene who reached out t SWIFT for help, only to find they had no other GBV organisation attached.
As empowered by Section 187 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the CGE Act 39 0f 1996, as amended, Section 11 (1) (e) the Commission shall investigate any gender-related issues of its own accord or receipt of a complaint, and shall endeavour to resolve any dispute or rectify any act or omission by mediation, conciliation or negotiation.
Once the Commission’s investigation is finalised, a report will be released making the findings and recommendations known to the public.

POWA Press Statement regarding​ the Babes Wodumo video that was posted on Instagram.

4 Mar


POWA is aware of the video that is currently trending on social media about the “alleged” Mampintsha abuse video of Babes Wodumo. This presents the realities that most women in South Africa are experiencing on daily basis. The statistics of intimate partner violence are currently alarming and increase daily. The South Africa President on the Gender-based Violence summit that was conducted in November 2018 and the State of the Nation Address (SONA) February 2019 confirmed that the country is a crisis with regard to violence against women and girls. This necessitates that proactive measures be put in place to address the current status, this includes amongst others re-establishing the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and developing a National Action Plan on Gender Based Violence that is economically viable, time-bound with proper accountability measures and monitoring. However, it was disappointing that during the current budget speech February 2019, Minister of Finance did not allocate a budget towards the promises made during the GBV Summit and SONA to address the violence against women and girls. This, therefore, shows that there is no political will to address the status quo, and it can be taken that our government just does a lip service.
The current “alleged” Mampintsha abuse video of Babes Wodumo is one of the many cases that bring a face to the statistics of violence against women and girls. Irrespective of the fact that a lot of women still die in silence, due to the current status where women are stigmatised and not protected. Women continually live in fear of their lives even in the hands of their intimate partners.
POWA’s advice to women is not to ignore signs of abuse in relationships, report abuse, and consult for psychosocial support in order to be assisted to have the strength to go through a tedious process of the criminal justice system and exiting an abusive relationship when necessary. Whatever evidence that there may be to an alleged criminal matter like in the current matter is not enough unless a context is created by the complainant or victim to give it effect to the evidence. This also assists the criminal justice system in using the law to protect women from violence. For proper dispensation of justice, women are encouraged not to withdraw their cases, and this is possible when we utilise available psychosocial service.
POWA once again is pleading with the members of the criminal justice system to take violence against women and girls seriously, not trivialise it and apply the law to the letter to protect lives. We also recommend that the suspects in domestic violence cases should not be given bail, based on the sensitivity of domestic Violence. This does not only affect the victim but the rest of the family members, and often times the suspect when given bail usually interferes with the state witness and family members committing more offences that could have been avoided.

For Further assistance and access to psychosocial social services for support please contact POWA at​ 011 642 4345/6
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