In war-torn Uganda, a music and dance festival fosters cultural pride and forges bonds between ethnic groups.
Uganda has been trapped in various forms of civil war since the early 1980s, as different ethnic groups have been pitted against one another in struggles for state power. The ongoing conflict has taken its toll on the country’s population, especially young people who have grown up surrounded by violence. After the conflicts began, a small group of concerned Ugandans established the Ndere Center, which encourages young people to take up traditional performing arts. Since 1997 the Ndere Center has hosted the Kwetu Festival, which brings together more than 1,000 performers from all over Uganda. This short film captures the Kwetu Festival’s celebratory mood and the determination of its participants to curtail violent conflict. As Ndere Center director Stephen Rwangyezi explains, “One of the reasons we are doing a festival like this is to create an understanding among the people at the local level so that if tomorrow a politician comes up and says, ‘let’s fight these others,’ people will say, ‘just a minute, we dance together, we sing together. Why should we fight?’