Home-made comedy is coming to Rwanda come November 2-4, when Kigali International Comedy Festival gets under way in the city.
Under the organisation of Comedy Knights, the festival will feature James Manzello, Giulio Gallarotti, Divin, Cotilda, Daniel Omara, Emeka, Herve Kimenyi, Arthur Nkusi, Babu, Michel Sengazi, George Birungi, and Clapton among others from Rwanda, Burundi, USA, Japan, Uganda and other countries.
Kenya’s Dr Ofweneke and Emmanuel Kisiangani, who is also a co-host of Churchill show, Guinea’s Oumar Manet and DRC’s Ronsia Kukielukila are also expected.
According to Jerome Migisha, the group’s manager, the festival seeks to find ways of making the Rwandan and African comedy industry presentable to and acknowledgeable by the world.
The Kigali International Comedy Festival emerges as another sole platform to add onto the few unique comedy festivals like Toseka Festival of DRC, Kenya’s Laugh Festival, Johannesburg International Comedy Festival in South Africa, and the African Comedy Festival.
Performances at this event will be in English, French and Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili and Lingala — all aimed at not only addressing Rwandans, but also vast audiences.
The festival, which promises to be an annual event, aims to also introduce comedians with great talent who might be less known on the scenes.
“It’s not only because big comedy acts come with a heavy price tag, but they are quite harder when it comes to generally impacting the audiences,” said Migisha.
The festival will also feature workshops, or platforms to inspire and empower aspiring talents.
“This is an exchange platform for artistes to socialise too,” explained John Muyenzi alias Babu.
Since its initiation in 2011, the Comedy Knights has grown, holding performances locally in Rwanda, and toured Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo, Kenya, Uganda, France, Belgium, Germany, Cameroon among other countries.
Last year was full of challenges, which included a break off by Arthur Nkusi — one of the group’s founding members, who went solo — struggle for a venue for its shows, and insufficient sponsorship.
“This event has been received well. We have so far been contacted by other comedians from abroad, who hope to make surprise appearances in support of it,” explains Michael Sengazi, a member of Comedy Knights.
Migisha said this year’s festival will run on a limited budget of about Rwf15 million ($17,649), though more is being invested into the talents’ creation and time. The festival is partnering with One Love, FCC Productions, while also in talks with RwandAir, Mutzig, Radisson Blu, among others.
Since November 2016, the group has found its way back, first through the Com Factory, a weekly comedy event, which takes place in Kigali, and is aired via RTV.
The show has had guest acts like Dr Ofweneke from Kenya, Captain Khalid — a Germany based Tanzanian comedian, Daniel Omara, Cotilda and the Queens of Comedy from Uganda, performing alongside emerging Rwandan stand-up comedians.
Migisha acknowledges how the group has evolved from just performing from just one sole venue, where they performed for less than 300 people to one which performs weekly and monthly for thousands of people.
“Our new focus as a group is to find ways of how comedy can stand out as a recognised art. It is the industry at large, which we are trying to nurture,” Migisha states.