The Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet is landing at Ndere centre September 30th

Imagine 80 talented young artists from five countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda coming together in one phenomenal two-hour performance at the Ndere centre. Expect drums and traditional East African instruments fusing with contemporary music, creating new soundscapes and rhythms. Look forward to be thrilled by fearless acrobatics, intense dancers, unbelievable contortionists and unstoppable jugglers. There you have the Umoja Festival.

Written by Thomas Bjørnskau,

The Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet Festival is visiting Kampala for the first time ever. During Friday to Sunday September 23rd-25th, the five participating countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Norway, Tanzania and Uganda) gave their best in the national performances at the National Theatre. This week the 80 artists are collaborating on the Festival’s final performance; the International Show at the Ndere centre, Friday September 30th at 7pm.

Promoting peace through cultural networking

Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet (CFC) is a product of the Norwegian Council for Schools of Music and Performing Arts. It is created upon the vision of promoting peace and development through international cultural networking. In order to do this it aims at creating a worldwide network of programmes, institutions and individuals.

Currently eight partner countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda and Norway) and a number of cultural institutions are involved. In each country a national UMOJA Ensemble is established, through auditions. The ensembles and institutions cover areas from music and dance, to circus and acrobatics.

Norwegian development authorities have been financially supporting UMOJA since 2003.

Improving skills through meeting likeminded

The Eastern Cultural Flying Carpet includes Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Norway – and for the first time this year – Uganda! The local partner in Uganda is Makerere University, Dept. of Performing Arts and Film. Patrick Mangeni, the Head of Performing Arts and Film, explains why this cultural networking is important:

”First of all, cultural networking is great in itself, and it will contribute to a better understanding of peace and development within a larger region. Secondly, when artists, directors and choreographers get a chance to collaborate with similar people within an establishment like Umoja, they will obviously learn, syncronise their activities, and improve their skills. ”

Intercultural collaboration important to develop diversity in the arts

Ten times full crowds at the National Theatre witnessed last weekend the pulsating one-hour performances from the five participating groups. The Ugandan group, under the art direction of Jonas Byaruhanga, founder of the Keiga Dance Company, performed their fusion of dances from different regions of Uganda and varying techniques influenced by Western dance, all put together in one choreography.

Why is it important for Ugandan artists to participate in these intercultural workshops?

”It is important because we get exposed to a high level diversity, which is absolutely necessary to develop our arts, and to improve art forms like dance and music,” Jonas explains.

Preparing the International show through workshops

The Festival brings together a group of talented young people, teachers, administrators and professional artists. The Festival offers participants an oportunity to develop and promote skills and get new ideas; to interact to gain cultural understanding and respect; to stimulate cross-over work and create artistically interesting results.

This week leading up to the International show September 30th, all the participatimng artists are gathered at the Fairway hotel, working on the joint show that will be performed at the Ndere centre.

What can the audience expect to see this evening?

”A taste of different cultures, maybe. They will see a Norwegian tune presented with indigenous instruments, fabulous dancers and acrobats with a breeze of Zanzibar, an overwhelming circus act combined with inspiring music of our Umoja world music orchestra. And every act performed on high artistic level,” explains Koen Schyvens, Umoja’s International Artistic Coordinator.

”Be ready to get impressed by jugglers, acrobats, dancers, musicians. All the 80 vibrant and energetic young artists from 5 different countries are this week creating together, and their skills will fuse together in a spectacular show,”  he adds vividly.

Thomas Bjørnskau is the editor of He is also Norwegian.

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