Tag Archives: Mashirika Performing Arts Media Company

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?
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’?”
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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.