East Africa: Burundi Theatre Coming to Your Neighbourhood

Burundi artistes are taking theatre to Bujumbura's neighbourhoods through performances and cultural activities tackling topics that are considered taboo.

From February 17 to 23, Burundi will host the Buja sans Tabou (Bujumbura without Taboos) festival in five suburbs. The festival started in 2014 and takes place every two years. Artistes from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have previously performed in the festival. The fourth edition of the festival seeks to promote free expression without censorship.

Under the theme "Theatre and History", the three-day event will focus on the history of key neighbourhoods and their residents, in the former political capital that is now a business city.

Participants will listen to stories and watch plays that reflect the neighbourhood's ambience and history. The festival will also include photo exhibitions.

One of Burundi's leading actresses and script writers Sheila Laura Inangoma, 25, who was recently in Kigali for The Africa Creative Exchange, will be leading the project. She said the objective is to take theatre to the grassroots because it is not just for urban setting and audiences.

"We started the Buja sans Tabou festival to own our way to telling stories by Burundians for Burundian in a Burundian space," Inangoma said. She is a member of one of five theatre groups that organise the festival.

The organisers are raising funds through an online campaign to finance their activities.

Inangoma says theatre groups in Burundi survive mainly from NGO projects. The organisations sometimes use theatre to pass on their messages through campaigns. The groups also organise paid performances in Bujumbura, which they say are attracting a growing audience.

For campaigns about domestic violence, NGOs use some of my plays about women's nostalgia to get the messages across, said Inangoma.

The festival will be preceded by a workshop directed by a Noël Minougu, an author and director from Burkina Faso.

"In Burundi people want to talk, that is why we are using theatre to help people meet," Inangoma said in a recent interview on the role theatre plays to bring people together.

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