I was at the 5th anniversary celebration of the Ishyo Arts Centre in Kigali tonight, where I saw a brilliant piece of improvised theatre about its closure. Its closure? I hear you ask. Yes, its closure. Essentially the Rwandan Social Security Board has decided to sell the land on which the theatre stands. Originally given until May 10, 2012 to move out, the arts centre (which also houses the Goethe Institute) got a 4-month reprieve after a social media campaign and must now leave by September 30, 2012. What's happening at the centre mirrors much of what is going on in the UK at the moment with funding cuts - as well as the attempts to sell the Africa Centre. What's most troubling about the situation is that Rwanda has no National theatre, so the Ishyo has become a de facto National theatre where international stars such as Nneka have performed.
Ishyo Arts Centre is otherwise a fantastic story; it came out the efforts of a cultural activist group founded by 8 Rwandese women in 2005, and the space has been active for 5 years. If I'm honest, I don't think even Ghana, with its National theatre can claim to have done much more than this small space that has nurtured so much talent and cultivated a whole generation of ARTS enthusiasts.
So, before I go to bed on this mosquito-melodied night in Kigali, I urge you to tell someone about the Ishyo Arts Centre, let its fame spread, add your voice to the cries against its closure, tweet it, G+ it, record a message of support and put it on youtube, if you work in the media do a story on it. (I can put you in touch with the groups working at the theatre, including the wonderful Carole Karemera (you may have seen her as lead actress in the film Sometimes in April alongside Idris Elba a few years ago).
Thank you and good night.
what i'm reading/listening to
Shazam Doowah - Amiri Baraka (track)
Commonwealth Prize entries