ARTICLE: Amahoro 2014
Shoreditch is a trendy urban area of East London famous for graffiti plastered onto shop fronts, vintage clothes, ramshackle bars, and quirky cafes.
The RichMix music venue sits right in the heart of these thriving streets - just a stone’s throw from Brick Lane and near to the innovative Boxpark: a collection of pop-up shops stylishly presented in shipping containers.
Every night crowds pack inside for programmes which reflect the diversity of the area and the event on Friday 5th September was no exception.
This was the first time the Rwandan Community in the UKcollaborated with another group: Celebrate Life Events – and the reason was ‘Amahoro’ which means peace in Kinyarwanda.
‘Never ask a Rwandan about peace,’ said one of the guests who was interviewed. ‘We won’t stop talking about it!’ This turned out to be true – peace is something they take very seriously.
‘Why did you come to this event?’ Another guest was asked. ‘Because it is called ‘Amahoro’ he replied. ‘If there’s an event about ‘Amahoro’ I want to be there.’
This passion for peace has been learnt the hard way. Twenty years ago ethnic fighting broke out in Rwanda creating the horrendous genocide of 1994. It was the culmination of many years of tension which resulted in widespread killing on previous occasions. This time the people could take no more. Never again could such a thing be allowed to happen.
This began the long and difficult journey to peace. Rwanda has come a long way since then, now the country is becoming better known for its stunning wildlife and unique crafts, music and dance.
Keeping this culture alive, away from home, is part of what the Rwandese Community Association UK (RCA) is about. Patrice Shema is Chairman of the community and as an artist himself, he has come up with some creative ways of making this happen. One such way was collaboration with Celebrate Life Events.
Celebrate Life Events (CLE) are a small motivated team of volunteers who have put on events around London for the past 4 years. These events have ranged from cinema screenings to full scale music and performance nights – the common theme that ties them all together is the focus on peace – in particular the peace message of Prem Rawat who has the ability to touch people from all backgrounds cultures, and cut straight to the heart.
When Prem Rawat came to London, June 2014, Patrice was invited to hear him speak at the Houses of Parliament where he signed the ‘Pledge to Peace’ on behalf of the Rwandan community. Thus the building blocks were put in place for the ‘Amahoro’ event.
The ‘headline act’ was, Jean-Paul Samputu – an artist from Rwanda, famous in Africa and around the world, with a remarkable personal story. A survivor of the genocide in 1994, his life was changed forever when he chose to forgive the man who killed his parents. His efforts for peace and forgiveness alongside his musical talents, helped heal the wounds in his native country and have made him a much sought-after speaker and musician in many parts of the world.
Also on the line-up was Namvula a London-based artist with roots in Zambia. Each song told a story, evoking the spirits of her African ancestors in a contemporary and beautiful way.
Mr Gee, one of the stars of the UK’s ‘spoken word’ scene and also an excellent comedian, got everyone’s attention immediately he took the stage with a moving and very entertaining story about visiting his relatives in Uganda for the first time, some years ago.
He introduced one of the short films of the evening created especially for the event. The audience became quiet, and the focus during the screening was quite remarkable. Although many were standing, they watched with keen attention during the powerful clips from Prem Rawat’s live addresses in Cotonou, Benin, and Pasadena, USA. At this point the venue was full to capacity with over 250 people.
The second half of the event was when things became lively. Hip-hop artist Jean Brown, who has a fan base among the younger members of the Rwandan Community, performed couple of up-tempo numbers, followed by, last-minute addition, Mudibu (from Burundi) who wowed the audience with his powerful voice and aptly titled song ‘Amahoro.’
Jean-Paul Samputu returned to the stage for the final set of the event saying ‘enough talking, time to dance!’ and proceeded to ramp up the energy and get everyone on their feet. Some members of the Rwandan community took to the stage to dance the beautiful and unique Rwandan style of dancing adding to the occasion.
Both the Rwandan Community and Celebrate Life Events team were thrilled at the amazing turn-out, great atmosphere and the high quality of all the performers. But more importantly there was the feeling of ‘community’ which had brought a diverse audience of cultures, ages and ethnicities together to celebrate their common humanity.
The following weeks are seeing many positive outcomes and some really special collaborations are being planned.
Thanks to Nitesh Mistry for the photos.