A very lively Deborah Asiimwe addresses the guests of the third Kampala International Theatre Festival with a happy defiance of the weather.
It’s been threatening to rain since 2pm. It drizzles at some point and wets the ground releasing that all too nostalgic petrichor. Most times petrichor preludes a new season. After a long dry period, when the rain finally kisses the wet ground, that scent rises in anticipation of more rain. It is at the same time relief from dryness.
The third edition of the Kampala International Theatre Festival is taking place at Ndere Centre which is located off the Northern bypass in Kisaasi. It sits excluded far from the busyness of the towns near it, Ntinda and Kisaasi, and offers a near hermitage experience. The general environment is green and has a lot of silence, a preferable place for artists to exert themselves.
6pm and the guests are in sipping on drinks and munching away on finger food waiting for the Festival to be officially opened. The clouds that have been threatening send another drizzle and the guests converge on the large verandah of the main auditorium.
Notable faces are Charles Mulekwa, Doreen Baingana, George Okot, Kaya Kagimu Mukasa, Michael Wawuyo, not to mention the resident playwrights, directors and acting coaches like Kemiyondo Coutinho, Achiro Patricia Olwoch, Obehi Janice, William Chewe Musonda from Zambia and Kalundi Serumaga. Festival co-director, Faisal Kiwewa stands quietly in the crowd as he listens.
When Deborah Asiimwe takes centre stage to give opening remarks, she does so defiant of the cold weather and dotted lines of water falling from the sky. Her yellow kitengi is accentuated by its red finishing.
Her remarks speak of the need for the arts to share what is unshareable, to speak what is unspeakable to be an expression for those who desire to express themselves. In a world where everything is becoming very inward, beliefs, language, race, tribe should not be allowed to prevent expression. She hopes the festival is a stage where different opinions can be shared without creating enmity. Very much a conscious appreciation of art and whatever message she tells. At this point she invokes the audience to “say amen” in light of what will be the premier presentation of the festival – Peter Kagayi’s “The Audience Must Say Amen.”
This 3rd edition will have performances from teams from Lebanon and the USA. Present at the cocktail is Giovanni Ortega who will be performing Allos: The Story of Carlos Bulosan, and the Minwal Theatre Company who will be performing Barzakh.However it will have more Ugandan productions, giving a platform for more Ugandan playwrights and actors to engage in their art.
As Deborah concludes the speech and declares the festival open, the drizzle subsides as the guests are invited into the Main Auditorium to witness the first production. As the petrichor fades into our lungs, we get prepared to say “Amen”, Kampala International Theatre Festival is open!