Kina Festival, a biennial event dedicated to showcasing drama for those aged between two and nine, kicked off on November 10-12 in Kigali.
The three-day festival brought together 27 thespians from countries like Rwanda, Germany, Belgium, Cameroon, Kenya and Burundi.
Carole Karemera, the art director of Ishyo Arts Centre — a theatre company behind the organisation of the festival — said this year’s turn up hasn’t been impressive amid other challenges.
The country’s theatre industry is yet to grow and is seemingly a seasonal venture. It is dominated by live plays featured in the few annual festivals, while most theatre companies survive on funding from NGOs running sensitisation campaigns. The survival of this art form is still a worry.
Ben Nganji, a renowned theatre and music artiste said theatre is mostly known for sensitisation campaigns and still struggles to survive due to lack of funding.
“Most theatre actors are poor and lack money to fund their projects, which then makes it difficult to grow this art form,” said Nganji.
“The festival is growing in terms of content and participations, but the public is yet to emrbace it fully,” said Yvan Butera, a participant.
Even with the vibrancy of Kenya’s theatre industry, shows for young audiences are still few.
“We haven’t ventured into children’s theatre, which has potential,” said Hellen Alumbe, a Kenyan thespian and story teller.
German theatre director, from HELIOS Theatre, Michael Lurse, said modernisation poses a threat to theatre since children are kept busy by TVs and the Internet.
Lurse, who is currently producing several theatre productions for a young audience said live theatre allows interaction between the audience and the actors.
Loyd Ngazino, a Zimbabwean thespian said theatre is yet to be fully embraced as an art form in most African countries. Yet, Africans socialised through communal activities in previous years.
“Artistes, parents and educators need to jointly rise up to promote and uplift theatre,” said Lurse.
Nganji added that “The public should invest in the arts, and specifically theatre, which can be a profitable venture.”