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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Storymoja Hay Festival, 19 – 22 September 2013


The Storymoja Hay Festival is organized in collaboration with Storymoja and the Hay Festival (UK). It will be held on the 19th to 22nd September at Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi. This year, author, art historian and distinguished writer in residence at Bard College Teju Cole is also participating.

This year’s festival theme is: Imagine the World! Waza Dunia!

Founded in 2008 The Storymoja Hay Festival is a four day celebration of stories, ideas, writing and contemporary culture through storytelling, books, live discussion forums, workshops, debates, live performances, competitions, mchongoano and music. This year, there are over 60 events. The festival attracts the most exciting local and international writers and thinkers.
The Schools Programme and the Storyhippo Children’s Village offers exciting activities and sessions for children ranging from creative writing classes, dance and theatre camps, publish your own book session and fun science experiments.

Meet with the brightest thinkers from home & abroad; literature, technology, innovation, self-development, wealth creation, art and music.


Highlights | Film screenings:

The Global Seminar – Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: The Art of Science Storytelling

Saturday 21st, 11:00, Ford Hall

Film screenings of The Matriarch, Curse of the Gazelle King, Nature’s Nurturers, Re-alignments: A Zebra’s Story, The Lost Boys of Laikipia.
Followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers; Muhinza Bushoki, Kevin Midigo, Loise Njagi, Maryanne Wangui Njuguna, Victor Oloo and teaching assistant Karim Kara. Presented by Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Princeton Atelier &the Program in Visual Arts of the Lewis Center for the Arts, & by the Princeton Environmental Institute

New Year’s Eve

Saturday 21st, 17:00, Discovery Hall
The Kenyan premiere screening of the Commonwealth Short Film New Year’s Eve. As a New Year’s Eve party plays out, Baraza is forced to find the courage to come clean. He risks shattering an entire way of life. Followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Wanjiru Kairu.


Highlights | Talks:

Voicing The Unspoken

Saturday 21st, 11:00, Storymoja Amphitheatre

Warsan Shire, Dr Neal Hall, Mongane Wally Serote and Njeri Wangari
Warsan Shire (Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth) won the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Dr. Neal Hall (Nigger for Life) has won over 10 prizes for poetry in book festivals around the world. Mongane Wally Serote (Yakhal’Inkomo) has won the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize, the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa and was a Fulbright Scholar. These multiple-award-winning poets read from their work and talk to Kenyan Poet, Njeri Wangari (Mines and Mindfields) about asylum, war, love, loss, borders, insanity, race, identity and inequality.

Teju Cole in conversation with John Sibi-Okumu | Open City

Saturday 21st, 13:00, Louis Leakey Auditorium
This story of a young Nigerian-German psychiatrist in New York City five years after 9/11 was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won both the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Internationaler Literaturpreis. ‘A powerful and un-nerving inquiry into the human soul. Open City is

a profoundly original work, intellectually stimulating and possessing of a style both engaging and seductive.

– Time Magazine.

John Sibi-Okumu is a Kenyan playwright (Role Play and Minister Karibu) journalist and actor best known internationally for his role in The Constant Gardener.


The Commonwealth Writers Conversation: The Untold Story

Saturday 21st, 13:00, Ford Hall
The first in a global series of conversations invites writers, artists and thinkers to discuss the subjects and themes that are sometimes met with silence in societies around the world. This is the place to talk about how to communicate the difficult and the unsayable, whether through words or other forms of expression. Panelists include Chief Nyamweya and Keguro Macharia. Tell us on email or twitter what you’d like to discuss with the panel.



Saturday 21st, 15:00, Kanga Tent

Ng’endo Mukii, Tazim Elkington, Zukiswa Wanner, Renee Mboya
The film-maker of Yellow Fever, Ng’endo Mukii chats with Tazim Elkington, Zukiswa Wanner and Renee Mboya about the shades of discrimination arising from our convoluted ideas around beauty and skin colour.


Black Identity

Sunday 22nd, 11:00, Kanga Tent

Dr Neal Hall, Mongane Wally Serote and Binyavanga Wainaina
Mongane Wally Serote was arrested by the apartheid government and spent nine months in solitary confinement. His poems explore themes of political activism, the development of black identity, and violent images of revolt and resistance. Dr. Neal Hall’s award winning book Nigger For Life, reflects his painful discovery that in ‘unspoken America’, race is the one thing by which he is first judged, by which he is first measured and against which his life and accomplishments are measured. Binyavanga Wainaina is the founding editor of Kwani? literary journal. His no-holds-barred Granta essay How to write about Africa drew wide-spread international attention. His memoir One Day, I Will Write About This Place made Oprah Winfrey’s list. In a free ranging discussion, these three powerful writers explore black male identity.


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Kendu Hearth | Conference on Innovation & Hybridity in African & International Theatre

1001802_10153023197035360_1514434804_nKEBUForum, in collaboration with international theatre companies IFT (It’s A Freedom Thing theatre), and Volcano Theatre present a pilot programme during a celebratory week of public discourse on innovation and hybridity in African and international storytelling. During these five days, conversations, master classes, panel discussions and performances will be presented to ensure a theoretical approach as well as practical demonstration of hybrid form of theatre. There will be reflection and dialogue on what ethos to carry into work inspired by works that are cutting edge, works that push boundaries, and works that are experimental. The Conference will draw Speakers and Participants from three different Continents: Africa, Europe and North America.

From 26th-31st of August 2013, notable Ugandan and International theater-makers will lead conversations, offer workshops, and showcase their work at Buzz restaurant and lounge, Bugolobi, Kampala.

Award-winning Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, will deliver the keynote speech on ‘Owning the African narrative.’ The theme of the conference is “Innovation and Hybridity in African and International Performance.” Key topics for discussion include:

  • Sustainable theatre business practice/finding funding
  • Embracing multiple narratives and art forms
  • Ugandanness, Africanness and Blackness
  • “She is the story”: women and the theatre
  • Theatre as a political advocate

Each day will feature public performances, including poetry by Donna Michelle St. Bernard and a musical theater piece Dawn of the Pearl by Acaye E. Pamela on Wednesday August 28, 2013 at the Sheraton hotel, Kampala.



On Thursday August 29, Nova Bhattacharya, a Toronto-based Bharanatayam dancer, will blend this ancient Indian dance form with modern dance at 6pm at Buzz restaurant and lounge. Friday night will host the premier African performance of the internationally acclaimed play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour; the piece will star celebrated Ugandan sketch comic Frobisha  Lwanga.

Master classes are free but require prior online registration as space is limited; panel discussions, presentations and most other events are free and open to the public with the exception of a few paid benefit performances. For further information, including program details, prices, times, and to register online please visit the Kendu Hearth website, their Facebook page and find them on twitter.


Photo credit: Mariuxi Zambrano

Mumbi Tindyebwa is a Kenyan-Ugandan-Canadian Theatre creator and Director raised in Kenya and Victoria, BC and now based in Toronto. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of IFT Theatre and recent participant in the distinguished Michael Langham Workshop in Classical Direction at Stratford Shakespeare Festival. In 2011, Mumbi was honored with the Mallory Gilbert Leadership Protege Award and nominated for the John Hirsch Award in Direction. She has also received funding support for her work and development as an artist through the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and Theatre Ontario.

deborah asiimwe

Photo credit: Philippa Ndisi Hermann

Currently working as Specialist for Sundance Institute East Africa in New York, Deborah Asiimwe is an award winning playwright, performer, and producer. She is a 2006 recipient of a scholarship of merit in Writing for Performance from California Institute of the Arts, where she graduated with a Master in Fine Arts (MFA) degree in 2009. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre from Makerere University, in Kampala-Uganda. Asiimwe is a recipient of the 2010 Theatre Communications Group (TCG) New Generation Future Leaders grant to work with the Sundance Institute Theatre Program.

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Profile of the Week | Lupita Nyong’o


Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico, raised in Kenya and educated in the USA. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama’s Acting program and her stage credits include playing Perdita in The Winter’s Tale (Yale Repertory Theater), Sonya in Uncle Vanya, Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew, as well as being in the original production of Michael Mitnick‘s Elijah.

In 2009, Nyong’o released her moving documentary In My Genes.  It is a documentary that tells the plight of people living with Albinism in Kenya. The film follows 8 people and reveals their struggle in coping with a condition that is rarely understood by most people in Kenya; but equally celebrates their resilience through stigmatisation that is no fault of their own.  The film preceded the murders of albino people in Tanzania that put this issue on the global map thus placing this concern squarely in view of a global audience. It is filmed and produced by Lupita. View the trailer below:

78 min | Colour | High Definition | 4:3
Kenya, 2009
Status:  Released

Language: Swahili, English

Subtitles: English

The synposis is as follows:

Agnes may not seem like someone with much to laugh about. For one thing, she has albinism– a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes– and her appearance has provoked prejudice from family, friends and strangers since she was born. But despite all odds, Agnes refuses to lead a life of sorrow.

This fascinating and inspiring documentary also shares the stories of seven other people’s individual experiences of living their lives with albinism in Kenya, a predominantly black society. While each person’s story is unique, they all have one thing in common: they know what it is like to stand out uncomfortably in a crowd!


Agnes and Lupita
Courtesy of LadyeNews

During the same year, Lupita was also the lead in MTV’s award-winning TV drama series, Shuga (2009) commisioned by MTV Networks Africa in association with MTV Staying Alive Foundation, PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief) and the Government of Kenya. It aired on MTV Base and is an initiative dubbed MTV Staying Alive Ignite! It is a controversial hard-hitting drama that followed the lives, loves and ambitions of a group of young people whose bright lives and  futures are perilously out of balance due to their love of living dangerously.

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