Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Enter Stage Right


A young girl waiting for her turn on stage.

A young girl stands nervously biting her nails whilst holding a couple of pompoms. Peering around the corner of the doorframe, into a room darkened by the inclement weather outside, she watches as her teachers perform a number of traditional Kikiga and Rwandese dances. Her turn will be soon.

It is Wednesday 13th April and after spending the first half of the morning at Blessed Academy's out of town nursery, we are now at the main primary school premises in Kabale. It is still raining heavily and the roads have nearly finished their transitions into flowing rivers of red mud.

I feel a tiny bit on edge as the first performances unfold in front of the other class children, the teachers and the small bazungu audience. I guess that the uncertainty comes as a result of watching a show without having any idea of what is going on beyond the obvious aesthetic display.

Questions continually pop into my mind: What does this movement symbolise? Why is that man wearing a straw wig? Is this Kikiga or Rwandese?What are the items that look a lot like giant butternut squashes the girls are dancing with?

After fighting my enquiring mind into submission, I just decide to let it go and I watch intently as, teachers, and then the children, take it in turns to dance and sing. Everyone from the smallest of P1 pupils to the tallest of P7 pupils has a part to play - in all instances they play their parts impeccably.

The older pupils definitely seem to be feeling the pressure more, and their tension and desire to prove how good they are at dancing to their foreign guests is evident: the nail biting; the shuffling of feet; the last minute rehearsals, off to stage right in the damp and muddy car park. 

Finally, our young girl's time to shine has come. The nail biting stops. She stands upright and walks out of the doorway, obscured from the eyes of her audience.

The old sound system rumbles to life once more, straining under the weight of the bass of a CD version of a traditional song, and after a couple of seconds, our girl appears, followed by an equally eager team of dancers, to take centre stage for two precious minutes.

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