We swerved out of the way so as not to hit the baboons as we carefully navigated the bumpy and mountainous dirt road. We were very far south, about 4 miles from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 20 miles from Rwanda, heading to Kisoro, Uganda. Our road-weariness immediately left us as we got out the truck and heard the sounds of drums and singing. The Batwa dancers invited us to the edge of the lake where they sing and dance as the sun sets. It was an absolutely extraordinary moment. This is was where the work began.
My husband Aaron and I were in Uganda working with Stephen Rwangyezi, a Ugandan dancer, educator, actor and the Executive Director of Ndere Cultural Centre and Dance Troupe, on a cultural archiving project. We were documenting Indigenous dance and the history of these dances to create a video archival library for the cultural center. It is an ambitious project that will also include an arts festival in Kampala and a student and artist exchange residency. The exchange will bring young people from New Mexico to Uganda for a residency where they will learn about the arts, sustainable farming and the environment, as well as educational programming.
We were at the very beginning of creating this exchange project with Stephen and we only had 10 days in Uganda this summer with a very long to-do list. We accomplished a lot, filming dances and conducting interviews as well as mapping out a plan and structure for the residency. We also managed to throw in teaching a few workshops and get in some social time with our friends at Ndere.
International diplomacy is a critical activity in our world today and diplomacy through the arts has become a deep passion of mine. This project is a drop in the bucket, but one that is important to our global and local health and resilience. I know many people think this work of education and cultural exchange through the arts should start at home and stay at home, but international support and development strengthens that home. I believe it’s all connected. I am in no way an expert on international relations. I am simply an artist who, through my work, has found a place in global arts work. I believe in the possibility of a healthy world and the arts as an avenue toward that realization. Strong international markets drive economic development, countries with stable political situations have a better chance at security. Saving lives by fighting poverty, hunger and disease is our humanitarian duty. All of these pieces can be strengthened by artistic exchanges. Through this type of exchange and collaboration, we all become strong. I learned this value as an artist in a New Mexico theater ensemble, but it is a value I take with me everywhere I go.
Stay attuned to how this collaboration continues to develop by checking in with Tricklock Company online at tricklock.com from time to time.