As an Arts and Features Journalist, I have attended several festivals mostly in Southern Africa and most of them are a combination of music, theatre, poetry and visual arts.
Apart from patronizing several festivals taking place in my country Malawi including Lake of Stars which takes place in the beaches of Lake Malawi in Mangochi and Blantyre Arts Festival in the commercial city of Blantyre, my recent festival was the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
So when Goethe Institut Johannesburg gave me an opportunity to patronize the Ravy festival in Yaounde, Cameroon, I was very excited. In the first place I should say that I noticed that this festival was different from the others as it was all purely performance art.
In Malawi, there is no such kind of festival and so I thought it wise to embrace this platform to share my experiences as an arts Journalist but also at the same time learn what happens at the Ravy Festival.
It was unfortunate that I arrived late due to flight problems and missed out on some performances including my presentation at the Institut Francais. I felt sad as I wanted to be part and parcel of the whole festival from the start to finish.
I tried to negotiate for another time for my talk but it proved difficult as there were so many performances.
I should say it here that the festival is still a baby compared to other festivals I have attended and there is a need for more people to come in and help the organizers including the government run it professionally.
All the same the small team still tried and in some instances they really were strict with the time. The performances were of high class although in some instances, things were being delayed because the materials for performances were being organized the same day of the performances.
The other thing was that the festival was not well publicized a situation which was only attracting a few people but I should also commend the artists for putting a different taste to the festival, for instance some artists like Nigeria’s Jelili Atiku performed in the street where he attracted the attention of the people.
It was a different performance; people were forced to watch even though others had questions all over their faces as to what was happening.
The other interesting thing during the festival was the dedication I saw in artists in establishing their own performance places which is rare in my country.
In Malawi for one to own an arts venue then you need to dig deeper and as I am writing now, the country has inadequate infrastructures for arts performances and the closure of French Cultural Centre made things even worse.
I enjoyed the performances of artists like Cameroon’s Christian Etongo, a very experienced and creative artist, Dieudonne Fokou, Jean Gerard Bessala and the video art of Dominique Gayman.
This was also a festival that enriched my knowledge on the work that curators do. In Malawi there are a few curators and as a result, many artists manage themselves.
Zimbabwe’s Raphael Chikukwa, Germans Martin Baasch, Harro Schmidt and Kirsten Wechselberger gave out their talk on the work of curators and what they were doing in their countries and I realized there is more work for my country to do in terms of curators.
Japan’s Yurie Ido, had a best performance which was equally stunning so was Marcio Carvalho from Portugal. There were also photographs exhibition from Phillip Nyirimihigo from Rwanda, Ginette Daleu from Cameroon and Angola’s Edson Chagas.
The climax on this day was the performance of Atiku, his performances had everything in it, emotions, tears, laughter, it was something different for me really and I cannot forget the installations from Dominique Gayman.
All in all it was an eye opening festival which brought different performances, not the usual things like music or drama, but performances which drove the audience into deep thought as to what would happen next.
I would hesitate to come again and watch more performances if I chance can come up again to participate in the Ravy Festival. This is a festival for Africa and needs to be embraced by other countries.