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Media influences in contemporary Rwandan dance performances

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In contemporary Rwandan society, a revitalisation of so-called ‘traditional’ dances can be observed which manifests in the proliferation of youth dance troupes, especially in urban areas. This revival is part of the drive that has characterised Rwanda to reconstruct itself after the tragedy of the 1994 genocide. Since reaching power by putting an end to the genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front has undertaken the project of constructing a ‘New Rwanda’ on the basis of national unity. This new nation is conceived as a modern nation, which strives for socio-economic development and progressively enters into the global market economy. Cultural heritage is integrated in this undertaking to create a unified and developed Rwanda. The performance arts, in particular traditional dances, are highly promoted by the government as means to represent and embody a new, dynamic nation that nevertheless remains rooted in the country’s past. This presentation examines the transformations that mark contemporary Rwandan dance performances within this socio-political context. It focuses on the Inganzo Ngari dance troupe, which is currently considered the best of its kind in Kigali and serves as a model for the numerous other burgeoning troupes throughout the country. Particular attention is given to the media influences that can be observed in the troupe’s performances and, especially, to the impact coming from other cultural traditions, notably Chinese folkloric dances, accessed through the internet, and from videoclips of Rwandan or other pop artists. It is advanced that these influences strongly contribute to transform the dance performances into dynamic, visually attractive and highly perfected shows able to convey the image of a new nation that moves forward without losing its cultural identity.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars series.

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