If Self was a poet, she would write a beautiful poem for the phenomenal men and women of Ishaka. But She is not, unfortunately. Bare with her while she attempts to put into words the feelings and emotions the people who went to the Ishaka’s show went through.
If you don’t know by now what Ishaka is, and who the Ishakettes and Ishakets are, I have to ask you: What Planet are you living on? But I’m going to be nice with you and explain what it is. Ishaka is a Burundian Cultural group based In Ottawa. Women, men, girls, boys of all age come together to create a unique vibe, the vibe that reminds us of MamaLand, Burundi. They do it through dances and storytelling.
On June 16th, they just did that. Around 6:30pm, spectators were arriving one by one at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. As any other “normal” Burundian would do, they all take time to socialize and greet each other before entering the room -Self included-. That’s okay, we think, it’s a Burundian show, so Ishakettes and Ishakets will not start the show on time, for sure. Oh NO! When Ishaka says their show starts at 7pm, it is 7pm sharp! No Burundian time allowed. (Hope you got that, Self!)
The show this year was called Kahise, Kubu na Kazoza, which translates to The Past, the Present, and the Future. With so much creativity, grace and with storytelling in mind, Ishakettes and Ishakets presented us the evolution of the Burundian dance. They showed us how our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used to dance. They told us stories most of us never got the chance to hear from our mothers’ moms about Umugore mu Rugo. They reminded us of those small clips and old songs we used to see and hear on RTNB of women dancing wearing Ibitenge, with barefoot.
Today, the Burundian dance is more coordinated and more complex. Don’t get me wrong, it is still fabulous but the moves are aligned and the outfits more diverse. One thing that hasn’t changed and will probably never change -I hope-, is the drumming. If for some reasons, you’ve never heard or seen, Burundian Drummers, do yourself a favor, pause this reading and watch this.
The last part of the show was: Kazoza. They imagined what the Burundian dance will be like in the future. This was my favorite part and the one I find the hardest to describe to those who were not there. It was the shortest part, for reasons I hope you understand but it is the one most of spectators had fun watching. Ishaka found an incredible way of incorporating trending African dances such as the “gwara gwara”, “shoki” “shaku shaku”, “Azonto” to the Burundian dance and the best of all was kids doing the “shoot dance”.
I can’t begin to imagine the amount of work, practice, sacrifice, sleepless nights were put into the organization and the realization of that show. You didn’t have to be smart to see it through each and every one of their moves These women and men are so committed to what they do and us, the public, the Burundian community in Canada are so thankful to have such an example. At the beginning of the show, a little girl, who was going to perform as well, had a special message for Burundian parents who were there. She asked them that they don’t give up on teaching young kids about Burundi, their culture, their language, their dance, just because they live far from Motherland. It was so beautiful and so inspiring to hear it coming from a 10-year- old girl.
Side note: Everyone who was there would tell you this: these images do not do justice to how incredible the night was. It was a struggle finding the right balance between being present and capturing the moments with a camera lens. Sorry -not sorry- these pictures aren’t as great.
‘Til Next Time
For more on Ishaka, click here and for a little glimpse of what the night of the show was like, watch this.
All photos were taken by yours truly!