Freeing the mind, body

Sunday March 06 2022

Frank Mugisha during the stage set of Royalty, a contemporary dance performance. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE | NMG


The contemporary dance Royalty is a presentation of provocative art, with a focus on freedom from colonialism.

Its Kigali debut at L’Espace in Kacyiru was part of the 2022 Instinctual Arts Festival, a three-day event that started on February 25.

The 35-minute solo stage production by Frank Mugisha starts on a quiet, dimly-lit stage with a four-man band.

The traditional music played on the set is a fusion of the inanga (Rwandan traditional wooden zither) and the acoustic guitar, backed by drums and a keyboard.

Mugisha performs powerful dance routines interspersed with poetic presentations. The dancer is guided by boundaries marked by candles on the floor. Like a ritual, the moves are riveting with unexpected moves. Handstands and swinging portray a fight, craving, an aspiration to break free from unseen emotional chains and prison.

“It is a process of reclaiming my nobility as an African man; what we are,” Mugisha says.


Like a mellow meditative conversation, the presentation asks: “Who we have become, what we have turned out into, and what became of our one cherished culture and customs.”

Royalty brings to the fore patent issues like colonialism’s persistence and continued existence and the decolonisation of Africans’ minds and bodies as people unlearn the negativity of what has been taught about being African.

The music leans towards the abakurambere (ancestors) as they could hold the answers to the problems present-day society has.

Mugisha challenges the fast-paced world that African youth are in without being aware of its effects on independence and value to humanity.


Royalty was created in 2019 by Mugisha and CJ Suitts, an African-American poet, and premiered at North Star Church of the Arts in North Carolina in the US,

The presentation was later transformed into a solo piece performed by Mugisha. In the same year, it was performed in Connecticut.

In 2020 it premiered at the Time to Dance Festival in Tanzania.

The piece was selected as part of 20 performances by the most promising African Choreographers from the Diaspora at the 2021 Bienal de la Danse festival in Marrakech.

It has also been performed at Lamu island in Kenya.

The presentation is slated for a European tour this month and will return to Rwanda later in the year.