Eti! East Africa Speaks! : A THEATRE EXCHANGE In July 2008, a group of eleven theatre artists from East Africa (Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda) will come to Dartmouth College and New York City for a three and a half week residency. The primary aims of the residency include :
· building connections between the U.S. and East Africa by exposing East African work to U.S. audiences and by providing the East African artists with an opportunity to network and work with top-notch U.S. theatre practitioners
· to provide the African artists with the time and space to interact and create across East African national boundaries and to foster a growing regional artistic identity
· to redress a pervasive lack of knowledge in the U.S. about the cultures of East Africa by providing these artists with a forum to speak about the challenges and capacities of modern African identity through the medium of the performing arts. Several of the artists (Mumbi Kaigwa, Okello Kelo Sam, George Seremba, and members of Parapanda Theatre Arts) are bringing specific plays or ensemble pieces to be workshopped and presented in showcase performances at Dartmouth and the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center CUNY in NYC. (See below for more information on these pieces.) Other artists will be participating as workshop leaders and facilitators and will potentially join in the creation of a collective piece generated during the workshop. The first two weeks of the residency (June 30 to July 14) will occur at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH. The purpose of these two weeks are: 1) to allow the artists to develop and refine the works-in-progress and 2) to facilitate artistic exchanges and dialogue among and between the artists and Dartmouth theatre students through dance and theatre workshops, play readings, and improvisations. These two weeks will culminate in a showcase performance for the Dartmouth and regional community on July 12 and 13. After Dartmouth, the artists will continue the developmental residency in New York City with the support and assistance of 651 ARTS/Africa Exchange. The ten days will culminate in a series of work-in-progress presentations of their work at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center CUNY, scheduled for July 21 and 22. The New York segment will offer opportunities to network with potential artistic collaborators, producers and presenters as well as to attend shows. By the end of the residency, our hope is that the East African artists will have developed concrete and useful relationships that can be translated into practical opportunities to build further connections between the U.S. and East Africa. This project is being made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, Dartmouth College, 651 ARTS/Africa Exchange, and the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at the CUNY Graduate Center. THE PERFORMANCES
Come Good Rain. A play written and performed by George Seremba that consists of an autobiographical account of Seremba's terrifying experiences in 1970s Uganda. In a solo performance that integrates Ugandan song, folklore, and live percussion, he takes the audience on his journey from bare survival to triumph over the oppressive political regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin.
Forged in Fire. A collaborative performance piece by Okello Kelo Sam, Robert Ajwang’ and Laura Edmondson that integrates dance, music, and testimony to explore Okello’s wrenching experiences of the civil war in northern Uganda. Performed by Okello and Ajwang’.
They Call Me Wanjikũ. A solo piece by Mumbi Kaigwa with music by Andrea Kalima Zawose that explores the complexites of what it means to be a woman in Kenya today. Kaigwa focuses on the struggle to reclaim and rearticulate our names and our identities.
Mtumishi wa Umma/Public Servant. This piece draws upon Parapanda’s unique style of Swahili-language ensemble theatre that fuses improvisation, dance, music, and drama. It features poet/performer Mrisho Mpoto in a piece exploring contemporary corruption in medical practice. THE ARTISTS
Robert O. Ajwang’ is a musician, dancer, and choreographer from northern Tanzania. He received his early dance education through performing in local ceremonies and rituals and went on to study East African music and dance at the College of Arts in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Since moving to the U.S. in 1999, he has performed and taught workshops in Georgia, Florida, California, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He has also taught as a guest lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda, and his choreographed version of Malivata was performed at the National Theatre of Uganda in 2004. He current
ly teaches East African dance at Dartmouth College.
Deborah Asiimwe is an up-and-coming playwright and performer from Uganda. Her recent plays include Appointment with gOD, which was read at California Institute of the Arts in 2007, and Cooking Oil, a production of which is scheduled for 2008 at California Institute of the Arts. Lagoma is Searching, You are that Man, and My Secret all received productions at the Uganda National Cultural Centre/National Theatre. In 2006, she won the award of the overall best student at Makerere University in Uganda where she pursued her Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama. She has participated in many national and international artists’ gatherings, including a Women Playwrights International Conference (WPI) in the Phillipines, where she was appointed a member of WPI advisory committee, the 2003 Sundance Theatre Lab as an international observer, and the Sourcework workshop, held at Towson University (USA) and Warsaw Theatre Academy (Poland) in 2002. Asiimwe is an award winner of a merit scholarship in Writing For Performance at the California Institute of the Arts where she is currently pursuing her Master in Fine Arts (MFA) degree.
Hope Azeda is a leading figure in contemporary Rwandan theatre. She is the director and choreographer of Mashirika Creative and Performing Arts, one of the major theatre companies in Rwanda. Under her direction, the group collaboratively created Rwanda My Hope, which was performed in Kigali at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the genocide, and also at the G8 World Summit in Edinburgh in 2005. The play also toured in the UK in 2006. She has also been an artist-in-residence at the Institute for the Arts and Civic Dialogue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to her theatre work, she served as a casting director for the films Sometimes in April, Shake Hands with the Devil, and Shooting Dogs.
Mumbi Kaigwa is an actor, producer, and writer, as well as manager of the day-to-day affairs of The Theatre Company in Nairobi, Kenya. In March 2003, Mumbi produced and directed Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues as part of the V-Day Worldwide Campaign in Nairobi. The event raised close to a million Kenyan shillings for organisations working to end violence against women and girls in Kenya. In 2005, Mumbi was invited by the Wereld Muziek Theatre Festival to create a new work for their bi-annual festival. The show, KigeziNdoto, toured Holland, Belgium and Italy in 2006 and brought together thirteen performers in a dance, music, and narrative piece celebrating African heroes and providing an African perspective on Kenyan history. In 2003 Mumbi was awarded Woman of the Year for Music and the Arts by Eve Magazine, and she was President of Women Playwrights International from 2003-2005.
Mgunga Mwa Mnyenyelwa co-founded Parapanda Theatre Arts, one of Tanzania’s leading theatre companies, while he was a theatre student at the University of Dar es Salaam. Under his leadership, Parapanda has become known for its fusion of Swahili storytelling, poetry, music, and dance. He has toured with the group throughout East Africa, Mozambique, and South Africa.
Mrisho Mpoto is one of Tanzania’s most promising poets. He is also an actor, theatre director, and storyteller. Mrisho Mpoto resides in Dar es Salaam, where he spent many years working with Parapanda Theatre Lab. He has performed widely at festivals throughout Africa, Europe and East Asia. He is a founding member of the new company, BONGO DSM (Dar es Salaam.)
Charles Mulekwa is one of Uganda’s most successful playwrights. In 1998/99, the British Council and the Peggy Ramsay Foundation granted him a joint scholarship for an M.A. in Playwriting at Birmingham University, UK, where he wrote the play A Time of Fire. The play received its premiere at the Birmingham Rep in 1999. In 2003 he earned a Ford Foundation International Fellowship and joined Brown University, Providence, RI where he is a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies. In 2005 he served as the Ugandan Consultant to the Director for the film The Last King of Scotland. Currently he is working on his dissertation, Performing the Legacy of War in Uganda. Eva David Nyambe, an actor and storyteller, is a key member of Parapanda Theatre Arts in Tanzania. She was one of four Parapanda members featured in collaboration with S.O.P (Sounds of Progress) in Scotland. Most recently, she performed in “Bongo Mtoni,” which was performed at the Russian Tanzanian Cultural Center in Dar es Salaam last May. Okello Kelo Sam is the creative direcotr of the Ndere Troupe, an internationally-known dance troupe in Uganda. He has given workshops throughout Europe and the U.S. on Ugandan dance and music. A gifted actor, he also played a starring role in a film called Abducted: War Child directed by New York director Robert E. Altman, which seeks to raise awareness about the atrocities in northern Uganda, and he also appeared in The Last King of Scotland. He is also the founder of Hope North, a resettlement center in northern Uganda for victims of the LRA civil war. As part of his work as a peace activist, he is also collaborating with Robert Ajwang’ and Laura Edmondson on a solo performance piece entitled Forged in Fire, which integrates music, dance, and text to explore Okello’s personal experiences of the civil war in northern Uganda. George Seremba is a playwright and actor from Uganda. He was forced to leave Uganda in 1980, having barely survived a botched execution at the hands of military intelligence, and then moved to neighbouring Kenya where he wrote a number of poems and wrote and directed several one-act plays. His first full-length play was entitled The Grave Will Decide, and was written in Winnipeg during his first year in Canada. His play Come Good Rain debuted at Toronto's Factory Theatre Studio Cafe and has also played in Ottawa, Montreal, Los Angeles, London, Jerusalem and elsewhere; the play also won a Dora Award for Most Outstanding New Play in Toronto. Versions of the play were also broadcast on CBC and BBC radio. His most recent play, Napoleon of the Nile, has had a number of professional rea
dings. Currently living in Dublin, George is a student of The Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity College, where he is working on his PhD.
Andrea Kalima Zawose is a Tanzanian musician who collaborated with Mumbi Kaigwa and Eric Wainaina on KigeziNdoto. Recent performances include appearing in the Visa 2 Dance Festival at the Russian Cultural Center in Dar es Salaam. He is currently a student at the Bagamoyo College of Arts in Tanzania.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Roberta Levitow, Project Co-Director