Kigali. In the last one year, 30 young and talented Rwandan artist met in the stade Amahoro to practice their show. The show is divided into a section for musicians, one for actors and another one for dancers. They will perform their play as opening for the Ubumuntu Arts Festival.
I talked to Thierry and Synthia, the founders of Awake Theatre.
What is Awake Theatre?
Synthia: “Awake Theatre is a group of people which is based on the talents of every member. We have a variety of different arts, such as poetry, dancing (classic and contemporary, but especially contemporary) and theatre.”
When did you start the group?
Synthia: “Well, it was a journey. In the beginning, it was only Thierry and me. It started in 2015, where we played together within the framework of a project. In 2016, Thierry asked me to continue our project. I agreed and we tried to get more people on board. We found talented young people, that’s our team now. And that’s where we are right now!”
Thierry: “I was in class when I got the idea, I liked to draw. That’s how I started to think about the theatre. But I knew that I couldn’t accomplish it on my own and that together with Synthia we could make it. She helped me recruit others.”
What is your play for Ubumuntu festival about?
Synthia: “In our language Ubumuntu means „Being Human“. Therefore, it is all about humanity. The festival always takes place annually following the last week of the 100 days commemoration of the Genocide.
When thinking of the content of our project, we chose the topic humanity. For many people, our history begins with the Genocide. We tried to act about it and what comes after it. The humanity that comes after the Genocide.
I believe that it is very important to counsel other people because when going to their home, they are alone and they remember all things that they have been doing and what happened during the period of war. It triggers a flashback in their mind, changing the reality in even worse scenarios. Some are not able to sleep, their mind goes back to 1994. Others sleep, but have nightmares and wake up over and over again. People continued to live their life, most of them didn’t care about the psychologist and counsellors and didn’t get support.
That is why we like it to advise people that it is okay to get help. That everybody needs to assimilate with it. Because humanity is all about helping each other, taking care of each other, loving each other. So, we want people to get help in order to improve their state.
Our play is called “The wet umbrella”. When the rain keeps falling longer, even the perfect umbrellas can get wet, and need to get dry.
Especially during the commemorial period, psychologists worked very hard day and night to take care of other people. They met with people affected by the Genocide, sometimes facing the same history, the same story. But at the end of the day, they became “wet umbrellas”, they also need help.
We wrote the play in Memory of Jacky Uwantege and Dr Munyandamutsa Naason. 2 outstanding psychologists who did a lot to support Genocide survivors to recover to psychological problems.”
You’ve been meeting here each Wednesday for a year to practice?
Thierry: “Yeah. Every week. Every Wednesday we meet here at the same time.”
Are you all working?
Synthia: “Some of us are already working, some are still in high school or finishing their education at university.”
Who of you has the ideas and develops the concept?
Synthia: “Most of the time the ideas come from the two of us, from Edson or from the outside. We suggest the ideas in the group and discuss with them how to put them into practice. We combine their ideas and our own ideas to get the best. If there is something to change we change it. If there is something they want to add, we add it, in order to make it beautiful. We try to give it a meaning, that the audience can enjoy it.”
Synthia: “Yes. We have another project going on, so it is necessary to continue practicing.”
How did the idea for the name evolve?
Synthia: “We chose to call us ‘awake’ because we needed a lot of different attempts to get it started. That time, we told us that we cannot afford not to play, frustration won’t stop us to realize our project, we will be ‘awake’ and won’t sleep anymore.
The name is a daily reminder that we are awake, that we won’t close our eyes. We have a vision, we do not want to sleep again anymore.”
Interview: Anne Gerstenberg