First we would like to apologize for the silence, May was, excuse our language, one hell of a month! But we are back now, and as you may know, we’re a little bit older!
Yes, Ishyo turned 5 on May 5th and yes, it was a memorable celebration! Why was it memorable you may ask? To quickly remind you the context, Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) is selling some of its assets on public auctioning and our building/premises happen to be part of the lot so we were given until May 10th to vacate the premises. It was with that threat that we prepared our fifth birthday party, thus determining the theme: a “moving” party! We deliberately played on the double entendre of the word: we will be moving from a location we had occupied and cherished for over 4 years and it deeply moved us to depart from a space that holds so many memories and promises that were left unfulfilled. It was truly heartbreaking for us to think about the artists, cultural activists, art lovers and communities we would have to leave behind, with no indication of when we would meet again.
So after we had exhausted all possibilities of obtaining an extension, we finally informed all our friends online on May 2nd. The reaction to our announcement was phenomenal: artists, art lovers and concerned citizens took over Twitter and Facebook to vehemently protest either through petitions (link), open declarations, poems or tweets addressed to several decision-makers. We were overwhelmed by the support and the love that was shown to Ishyo Arts Centre as the refuge of many seeking a platform for creative expressions and exchanges. Little did we know that at the end of the day, we would receive a letter from the RSSB allowing us to stay until end of September. The immediate threat of eviction was postponed, but it remains a threat nonetheless, so we decided to keep our “moving” theme.
The small victory of solidarity over bureaucracy put all organizers and participants in a state of euphoria. For several reasons, we had no other choice than limit the number of guests we would share this special day with: we could only invite those we had been in professional collaborations with for the past 5 years (artists, businesses, civil society organizations, cooperation agencies, NGOs and government institutions).
We threw our work outfits on and put on our brightest smiles to welcome our guests that evening, despite the excessive amount of moving boxes that filled the premises. We took this night as an occasion to play our anthem, written and sang by internationally-acclaimed artist from Reunion Island Davy Sicard. We then proceeded to performances (dance, comedy, music and spoken word) and speeches (from the founding ladies of Ishyo asbl) that truly moved each and every person in the audience. And because a party ain’t a party without cake, our board and staff members got together to blow the 5 candles that lit faces so full of hope and determination that anyone could feel that whether in our current location or elsewhere, Ishyo Arts Centre will definitely blow many, many, many more candles.