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CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16
CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16

CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD

Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al

CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 -
CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 -
CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 -
CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 -
CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 -
CONNECTING WITH THE CROWD Mashirika embodies theatre’s poten al 3 0 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 -

30 THE INDEPENDENT December 16 - 22, 2011

BY CASSANDRA LUKWAGO

A group of girls—aged ve

to eight—rush onto the

stage in bright red dress-

es. They perform a song

about HIV/AIDS—the

theme of the night’s per-

formance. The girls are

followed on stage by a boy who succumbs to the temptations of an older woman only to have his romance unearthed by an enraged girlfriend. Through a mix- ture of light, costume and musical eects, the girlfriend’s anger is so palpable that many in the audience wince as the couple begin to ght on stage. Body language supplants dialogue as the main form of communication to account for the multi- lingual crowd that is present. The artists behind the show--- Mashirika creative and performing arts group—started in 1998 when Hope Azeda, then a student of music dance and drama at Makerere University was discovered by the then director of information Radio Rwanda during one of her performances. Azeda was invited back to Rwanda where she spent three months at Radio Rwanda learning Kin- yarwanda before starting the group. At the time, the theater scene in Rwanda was just beginning. According to Azeda, the commonest art form was radio dramas. “I realized that theatre is not about construction,” she recounts. “It’s about creating a space for dialogue and communal sharing.” As they developed as an act, Mashirika began to tackle themes like community, water, HIV, genocide and nutrition on stage—always using body language, costumes and music to underscore their message. The group and acts consists of people who sing, dance, act and play instruments. Skills, moreover, are continuously shared and passed on between group members. Now with 25 permanent members, they are more a family then a business. Some members live in Uganda and others in Kenya, but when there is a performance, they all come to Rwanda. Sometimes schedules are so tight that scripts and synopses are sent by e-mail, but this never prevents a performance from taking place. Angel Uwamahoro, a lead dancer and administrative coordinator for Mashirika, joined when she was 15-years old. She was introduced to the group when Azeda was amongst the

Culture

introduced to the group when Azeda was amongst the Culture Young performers assist Mashirika perform a

Young performers assist Mashirika perform a show that addresses the issues of HIV/AIDS

For three months in 2008, Mashirika went on a tour of the UK where they showcased one of their most famous performances about the genocide 110 times, while also partaking in 50 workshops to educate people about the genocide.

judges for a school play she wrote and later won first place for. Now 21, Uwa- mahoro says Mashirika is a good place for teens because of its inherent disci- pline. “Mashirika makes being good look cool,” she explains. “Not like other places where being bad is the thing.” However, to pull off a performance a lot of preparation and training is required. Mashirika members attend workshops with choreographers from Uganda, Ivory Coast, Ghana and the-

atre professors from the United States. Moreover, for three months in 2008, Mashirika went on a tour of the UK where they showcased one of their most famous performances about the geno- cide 110 times, while also partaking in 50 workshops to educate people about the genocide. The group has also helped to expand the frontiers of theatre in the country. Isôko, which translates to “the source” is another theater group that uses the art “for social harmony and cultural growth in Rwanda.” Isoko is currently working on the third installment of their “Trilogy of Time.” The first two parts depicted Rwanda’s past and present and the third will be about Rwanda’s future. The Ishyo cultural development centre, which helps to bring together artists, singers and dancers, in addition to drama clubs in schools and organ- isations such as Umurinzi and YWCA Rwanda, have also helped promote the- atre in Rwanda and use it as a means to reach and educate people. Mashirika, adds Azeda, is open to receiving new members and so long as you have talent and dedication, you are welcome. Mashirika believes that we all have a performer inside. To quote a Zimbabwean proverb: “If you can walk you can dance [and] if you can talk you

can sing.”

“If you can walk you can dance [and] if you can talk you can sing.” THE