The Ubumuntu Arts Festival, a celebration of humanity and peace-building, and the week leading up to it were a thoroughly joyful time at UPS. Through APIE’s work with Heather Randall, a NYC-based theatre director, the students were given the opportunity to work with Alexander Star, an Emmy-nominated singer and songwriter from the USA and Rwandan singer, Andy Bumuntu. The students not only helped to write a new theme song for the Ubumuntu Arts Festival called ‘Show Me The Way’ but also got to perform it live on stage with Star and Andy. It was a truly wonderful experience for everyone involved and memories were made that will last a lifetime. The whole week was full of amazing experiences from the rehearsals at the school to the festival itself. We were so proud of the students and the performance was incredible - I think everyone had tears in their eyes, I certainly did! I think Heather summed up how we all felt when she said ".... last week was one of the most joyful of my life and you were all a great part of it. I will never forget it. Onward and upward, there’s lots more fun to be had at Umubano!"
The atmosphere in the school throughout the week was electric, with Star, Andy and Star’s manager, Kuda Biza, visiting every day to rehearse with the students in the brand new hall. They also visited classes and got to know the teachers. I don’t think five minutes went by without ‘Show Me The Way’ being played somewhere in the school. When Star said “the magic was felt all around, and I'm grateful I was able to contribute” he really meant it – it was a magical week! One of the many, many highlights was Star’s performance at the very first assembly in the new hall – the good vibes were everywhere! Students were dancing, cheering, clapping and singing along and it was impossible not to get swept up in the atmosphere. At one point Star was surrounded by the entire Primary 1 class as they danced and jumped around him with their teacher! I don’t know how the head teacher is going to follow this with the next assembly!
Our involvement in the festival was an opportunity not only for the students to shine but also the UPS staff. Learning assistant, Emilie, choreographed the dance that the students would perform at the festival. She also taught it to Star who eagerly joined in. As the song is called ‘Show Me The Way’ this was incredibly apt.
“Singing, dancing and performing with Star built confidence in the children – they couldn’t believe they were getting to perform with a singer from the USA. Personally, it was a pleasure to see the children, staff and Star and his team happy because of a dance I created. Star was humble and wanted me to keep showing him the dance. We worked together and shared ideas.”
- Emilie Munyakazi, UPS Learning Assistant
Heather, Star, Andy and Kuda are all now friends of APIE and UPS and we can’t wait to see what other lovely memories we can make with them in the future. As Kuda said “[I] can't wait to come back again and create more memories” and I am sure he is not the only one who feels that way. We are really looking forward to developing our expressive arts programme at the school and linking it to our education for peace work – the beginnings of this were beautifully reflected in our work with the festival!
As if all of the excitement above wasn’t enough, a music video to accompany the song was also made – check it out below:
Giving young children the experience of song-writing, performing and starring in a music video will develop a love of expressive arts that could last a lifetime – and for that Star, Heather, Andy and Kuda you all shine brightly! Thank you!
Keep a look out for more singing and dancing from the stars at UPS – there is no stopping them now!