East Africa Sundance Institute Theatre Lab | Zanzibar

563050_10151659964608515_644199448_nUnder the supervision of Artistic Director Philip Himberg and Producing Director Christopher Hibma, the two-week exchange and development program (November 10-24) is part of the Sundance Institute East Africa initiative, now in its eleventh year, a professional program that creates peer to peer mentorship and exposure opportunities between theatre artists in East Africa and the U.S.  In the spirit of this exchange, Sundance Institute East Africa engages with East African artists in Africa as well as East African artists sharing their work in the U.S. Deborah Asiimwe, Specialist-East Africa, and Roberta Levitow, Senior Program Associate-International and Co-Founder, Theatre Without Borders, co-led this initiative.

While advancing the growth of individual artistic voices, they provide mentorship and professional development opportunities-recognizing and honoring the specific cultural, social, political, and artistic realities of East African life (unique to each country as well as to the continent) within both the design and the implementation of the Program. Sundance Institute East Africa is not a training program.

The primary goals of this exchange are to foster:

  • The growth of the American theatre artist and field through interactions in East Africa and with East African artists
  • The growth of the East African theatre artist and field through international exposure and exchange



Sundance Institute have announced the artists and projects selected for its first Theatre Lab on Zanzibar, which have now concluded. Deborah Asiimwe, Specialist-East Africa, and Roberta Levitow, Senior Program Associate-International and Co-Founder, Theatre Without Borders, co-led this initiative.

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said,

Our East Africa initiative is rooted in the understanding that exchange opportunities for independent artists, though rare, promote the inclusiveness and diversity of story that ultimately serves to advance the field of theatre.

Himberg said,

This is our third residency in the region. Two previous Labs were hosted on Manda Island, Kenya. Hosting our first Theatre Lab on Zanzibar, Tanzania, as part of our longstanding East Africa initiative allowed us to extend our unique and renowned model of creative support to artists in the region. We are grateful to our artists, both in East Africa and from the U.S., for contributing to an international conversation that enables us to better understand the role of the artist in our respective cultures.

The creative teams and projects participating in the Theatre Lab on Zanzibar were:

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Watch Jonah for FREE


The feature about Jonah has consistently been Ciné Kenya‘s most popular post.

The Film4-backed short Jonah, directed by Kibwe Tavares, is a stunning, ambitious hybrid of live-action and animation that reveals the cost of human progress. It received its international premiere at Sundance back in January, and played at Sundance London in April, and now we’re delighted to present the short online in full.

Jonah tells the story of Zanzibarian beach boy Mbwana, hungry for the future, who creates a myth that transforms his small town into a tourist hot spot. When the reality turns out to be far from his dreams, he sets out to destroy the town – or himself.

Produced by Ivana MacKinnon (The Scouting Book For Boys) and written by the Bafta-winning Jack Thorne (The Scouting Book For Boys, This is England ‘88), Jonah is Kibwe’s second short after his award-winning Robots of Brixton, which received half a million hits online. Jonah is produced by Stray Bear Productions from the imagination of Factory Fifteen. It is backed by Film4, C4, BFI and Shine Pictures, in association with Jellyfish Pictures, and stars Daniel Kaluuya, Louis Mahoney and Malachi Kirby.

It is Kibwe’s second short film, and he is currently in development with Film4 for his first feature. Read Tavares’ blog about the making of Jonah.

Jonah: A Story of Legend, Friendship and Survival by Kibwe Tavares




Jonah is a short by Kibwe Tavares. It is set in Zanzibar and looks at the effects tourism can have on a country from an economic and environmental perspective. By utilising a narrative of  friendship between Mbwana and his best friend Juma, these themes are explored. Mbwana and Juma are men with big dreams. Dreams that become a reality when they photograph “the world’s biggest jumping fish” leaping out of the sea.

Their tiny town soon blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. But for Mbwana, the reality isn’t what he dreamed – when he meets the fish again, both of them forgotten, ruined and old, he decides only one of them can survive.

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