Art community in Burundi celebrates return of Buja Sans Tabou festival



Buja Sans Tabou festival returns with fifth edition on “Memories” theme. However, the event that once unleashed huge crowds of art lovers and other curious people is now taking place without all the old pomp.

This event is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the art community of Burundi.  The edition, currently underway, is just a resumption of the 5th edition that was cut short after just one day in February 2022.

The Ministry of Culture had punished the festival because of drummers playing in costume and footwear, which was seen as a heresy by some supporters of Burundian culture. The drum is a powerful cultural symbol in Burundi, and it holds a place of pride as a part of UNESCO’s intangible heritage.

As if from a great lethargy, the festival resurrected without pomp. It is with a speech of barely one minute that the artistic director of Buja Sans Tabou, a recognized figure of Burundian theater, Freddy Sabimbona opened the festival, taking the opportunity to thank the artists who came from abroad and all those who have given body and soul for the festival to resume, a word of thanks was also addressed to the Ministry of Culture for having authorized the resumption of the theater.

In perfect accordance with the theme “Memories” which suggests an artistic dive into the past, the history of the country, the CLIV troupe kicked off the festival with the play: “Tuer le trône” which can be translated as “Abolish the monarchy”. In this play, they dealt with the dark hours that followed the recovery of the independence of Burundi, that is to say the period 1962-1966 which saw the flight of King Mwambutsa abroad in Switzerland, the coup against him perpetrated by his son Charles Ndizeye who will become Ntare V and then the abolition of the monarchy led by the former friend of Ntare V, Captain Michel Micombero and finally the killing of the young king after 6 years of exile.

The play masterfully written by the young Pascal Hakizimana, directed by his younger brother Olivier Hakizimana and performed by the youngest theater company of Bujumbura namely CLIV is an exercise in memory that tries to make young Burundians know through the channel of art the last hours of royalty in Burundi.

At 8:30 pm was performed the play “Kiti” which is an artistic representation of wars and other issues around the throne, where often people must show greed, selfishness, betrayal to get closer, maintain or overthrow the throne.

Despite the hard work and dedication of theater professionals to produce high-quality plays, enthusiasm for theater seems to be waning among audiences. The decision by the Ministry of Culture to cancel the previous edition of the festival had a negative impact on the theater community.

Furthermore, young artists who are talented and dedicated find it difficult to make a living in the industry and often end up seeking work in other fields such as journalism, banking, IT and everywhere else. However, there is hope for the future. The Ku.Ziko program, supported by the Swiss Cooperation, is a new initiative aimed at promoting and professionalizing culture and art. This program offers promising solutions to the challenges faced by the theater community, and its success will play a key role in ensuring the vitality and growth of this important sector.

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Guillaume Muhoza

Executive Director of Iris News

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