Bujumbura, the vibrant capital of Burundi, is gearing up to host an event that promises to tickle everyone’s funny bone. Supported financially and logistically by Canal Plus, and the embassies of European Union, France, and Swiss Cooperation in Burundi, this festival is not only a celebration of comedy but also a testament to the power of international collaboration and cooperation.
The Festival Canal Comedy Buja 2023 is set to feature some of the most notorious comedians from across Africa and the world, including Michel Gohou, Samia Orosemane, and Oumar Manet… as released in press conference held at the French Institute of Burundi on Tuesday 11, April 2023.
It will consist of four stand-up evenings at the Ecole Francaise de Bujumbura on April 17 to 19. All the 3 shows will take place at 6 PM. The top-tier show featuring the above-cited artists will take place on Thursday, November 20, at the French Institute of Burundi.
The festival is slated to be a grand celebration of humor, with a goal of fostering young aspiring comedians in Burundi by giving them a chance to be featured on Canal Plus. “ The main objective of this program is to foster collaboration and learning between comedy professionals. The program is focused on creating top-notch content consisting of 21 comedy sketches, each lasting between 3 to 6 minutes, with the ultimate goal of showcasing them on Canal+. The program emphasizes the development of technical skills and creativity, which are essential in producing high-quality content that captivates the audience and delivers the intended message effectively,” said Valery Ndongo, Cameroonian Comedian who is leading the activities of casting of artists to feature in the festival.
As part of the festival, 21 young aspiring humorists from Burundi will be undergoing special training to hone their comedic skills ahead of the festival. This training is designed to impart the necessary skills for these young artists to fine-tune their acts and eventually perform on stage as part of the festival.
“There is no doubt that the work of young comedians in Burundi can be vital in highlighting the country’s cultural identity and put Burundi on the map.”, said Boris Maver, Director of Swiss Cooperation in Burundi. Before underscoring: “The importance of humor in culture cannot be overstated. It allows us to laugh at ourselves and to find joy in everyday. This Canal Comedy Buja 2023, therefore, is a great opportunity for Burundi to celebrate this important aspect of its culture while providing opportunities for young comedians to shine, on a wider perspective, Swiss cooperation in Burundi supports Burundian culture through the Ku.Ziko program which runs for 12 years theoretically – it means if all goes well, otherwise we will stop.”
Against All Odds: Burundian Humor Has Flourished in the Recent Years
With senior figures like Michal Sengazi winner of the RFI Talents du Rire 2019 and Kigingi performing across Africa and Europe, Burundian humor has been on the rise despite the hurdles.
In fact, Burundian comedians face significant challenges when it comes to performing on an international stage. Notably, the language barrier presents a major obstacle as many comedians perform in the Kirundi language, which limits their opportunities for exposure to a wider audience.
According to Michael Sengazi, a Burundian comedian, succeeding on the international level requires a great deal of effort. Sengazi shared a personal anecdote about his experience at Canal+, where he was unable to recommend any Burundian comedians to renowned comedian Mamane, who initiated the famous “Parlement du Rire” comedy show in French-speaking Africa.
Despite these challenges, Sengazi believes that festivals such as the upcoming Canal Comedy Buja 2023 are crucial in giving Burundian comedians the opportunity to showcase their talent to the world. “Such events can help raise awareness of Burundian humor, promote cultural exchange and understanding, and ultimately pave the way for greater success in the global comedy industry.”
Amandine Sagnès, co-director of French Institute of Burundi said :”As co-directors of the French Institute of Burundi, Gilles Ganivet and I have revised our policy to support emerging artists in Burundi by enhancing their mobility and enabling them to promote Burundian culture. While festivals like these are crucial to this endeavor, it’s important that young artists understand that they must work towards achieving autonomy rather than expecting it to be brought to them on a silver platter, it’s not a gift that we hand them.”
Although many young people aspire to become humorists, there are concerns about the sector’s ability to provide a decent livelihood for them. In response to such concerns, Valery Ndoungou has claimed that while it can be challenging, it is still achievable. According to Ndoungou, a comedian needs to have contracts worth around 8,000 to 10,000 euros in a year to live decently, but not everyone can reach this level without exceptional talent and determination.