Ubumuntu [Kinyarwandan term] may be translated as “to be human,” and is similar to Ubuntu. Kinyarwanda is the national language of Rwanda. Emblematic of the humanity of Ubumuntu, is the annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival –a multi-national arts festival – which is held in the outdoor Amphitheatre at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Rwanda. South African dancers performed at the recent festival, which took place from July 14-16, 2023. Thirty countries participated. Over 15 performances were presented, over three days. The South African dancers participated on the platform of ACDC [Anderson Carvalho Dance & Choreography], under the steerage of Anderson Carvalho, who was born in Brazil and is based in the Netherlands. There is no charge to watch performances at this wonderful festival which is staged annually during the last week of the Rwandan 100 days, commemorating the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people.
For several years, Anderson Carvalho has worked on dance residencies in South Africa, devising dance theatre with South African creatives. In May 2023, ACDC presented a new work, Intimacy of the Skin in Cape Town. A 20 minute extract was performed at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival. During the lead-up to the festival, ACDC also facilitated the creation of a new dance theatre piece, with MindLeaps– a non-profit organisation which works with youth-at-risk and refugees. Over ten days, Carvalho, worked with Nicolas Laubscher from South Africa, as assistant choreographer and six dancers, trainees and teachers from MindLeaps. The result was a performance titled, The Unseen, which was presented at the festival on the opening day – to enthusiastic applause. Carvalho: “People were amazed that non-professional dancers were able to be part of such a process and perform as professional dancers, bringing the piece in such a manner that the full audience was captivated and moved”.
Carvalho was thrilled with the response to both its presentations at the festival. Intimacy of Skin, reverberates very much with ‘skin’ as a motif – in terms of intimacy, touch and connection but also resonates in terms of ‘skin’ as a marker and that which has defined us and been used to enact Genocide (Rwanda, Nazi Germany) and to classify people (Apartheid regime), so it was very emotional to present this work at this annual festival of humanity at the Genocide Centre. Carvalho: “The work was received very well. People were drawn into the aesthetics of the piece. Afterwards both local and international media were very interested in understanding more about the work”.
This is not the first time that Carvalho has been involved with the festival. His participation began during the pandemic. Carvalho: “We started our involvement with Ubumuntu in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when artists from all over the world collaborated remotely in the creation of a video work, Flames of Hope. This was a project created by Ubumuntu Arts Festival. The curator of the festival discovered one of my works, Decussate, which was online and after watching this work, she invited me to collaborate on Flames of Hope. All the artists involved in Flames of Hope came from different countries and includes dancers and musicians. I edited videos and gave instructions on how to use mobile devices and suggested types of movement that artists could perform for the camera. After Flames, I started working with Ubumuntu. I edited videos for them. They became familiar with my work and after the pandemic, I was invited to attend the festival, which was a great honour. Every year there is an open call for artists to apply for the festival.”
It is intriguing for us in South Africa to consider that a Brazilian/Dutch company presented South African dancers in Kigali at this international festival. Carvalho: “We are a seasonal international dance company with international aspirations. We work on a project-to-project basis on seasons. When travelling with artists we acknowledge the countries that are involved with our company, from music composer (USA), choreographer (Brazil/Netherlands) to the dancers (South Africa). It is key to our concept of Dance Intersect- bringing artists together, from different countries and different backgrounds. It is about connection, relation, creation and transformation”.
During the festival, Carvalho participated in a high profile press conference and this ignited tremendous interest in the work by his company and his work in South Africa. Speakers at the press conference, included Ruwanthie de Chickera, the Sri Lankan Artistic Director of Stages Theater Group, Matt Deely (British set designer, Carlos Renedo, (executive director of Ballet de Barcelona) and Chase Johnsey, the Artistic Director of Ballet De Barcelona. Carvalho: “The conference was held, at the opening of the festival and was a wonderful gathering of leaders in art; coming together to discuss the role of art in society and the profound impact of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in the local and international art community, as a shared space where artists from all walks of life can express their most inner unique voices and visions.”
What is next for Carvalho and ACDC? Carvalho: “We are already planning for our next year’s (2024) season in Cape Town, where we will have a growing cast of between eight and ten dancers; both local and international. We are expanding our international relations to bring our productions to Europe and US. Our presence at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival was very instrumental as many international players visit the festival, with a collaborative mind set. We will have an open call for our 2024 dancers ,soon, and will also have an open call for a local and international emerging and professional choreographers to present their works at Dance Intersect 2024. ACDC will financially support over a two months period one local emerging choreographer to bring his or her ideas to life, and to present their own work in an international context.”
✳ Featured image: Anderson Carvalho of Anderson Carvalho Dance & Choreography and dancers from South Africa, with MindLeaps at the 2023 edition of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Kigali, Rwanda. Images supplied.
Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn:
Review of When I Left The Room: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/review-when-i-left-the-room-lingering-images-of-cohesion-and-estrangement/