The very anticipated NuVo Arts Festival is here! Many of you with a social network account have probably seen a poster floating around a friend’s page. If you haven’t taken the time to know the details, it is my pleasure to break the news to you. No, it’s not a party with free NuVo drinks…Yea that’s what I thought too. NuVo, the catchy phrase which stands for New Voices is an action packed week of festivities that are aimed to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS through the arts, NO STATISTICS ALLOWED!….stay with me, I will explain that in a second.
Lucky Me! I was able to catch up with Kemiyondo Coutinho, the creator of the NuVo Arts and she gave me an insight on the festival which kicks off today with an Art exhibition at AKA Gallery.
You are the creator of NuVo Arts Festival. How did you come up with the Idea?
I have always acted and I recently started writing about 5 years ago. I say recent because my writing is still in its baby phase and I see big plans for it!! I have always known that art can affect people and a society tremendously. NuVo is my way of trying to allow the arts in Uganda to do that!
What is the idea behind the phrase ‘NO STATISTICS ALLOWED’?
No statistics allowed comes from my frustration with numbers and acronyms used to tell us about HIV. I want us to paint the missing stories behind the statistics in this festival 🙂
NuVo Arts is targeted at spreading awareness of HIV/Aids. Are you trying to reach a specific age group, and how important is their role in the awareness of HIV/Aids?
I am trying to be ambitious and I hope that it will target everyone above 18. I don’t expect every event to appeal to every age group but I tried to put events that will target different demographics. Our ‘Fashion Night Speaks Out’ for example, is largely targeting the young “Party Going” crowd. Whilst the play “In the Continuum” is targeting anyone above 18.
Many people have asked why I have invited high school students to watch the play, I feel that to ignore High School students is to ignore a huge group of sexually active people. (Yes, she just said it!). To ignore that many s5/s6 students are sexually active is to perpetuate the problem. Rather, engage them in the discussion and allow them to receive the full facts about HIV and AIDs which will equip them for better decision making.
Now that you brought that up, I know so many people, myself included who are pretending to know what the title of the play means…?
(Laughs), The word ‘continuum’ (after a quick online search on Dictionary.com) refers to a continuous series of things that blend into each other seamlessly so that it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins. This is very much how the play, ‘In The Continuum‘ goes. You will watch two actresses in two different worlds playing eight characters yet their stories overlap so seamlessly. (…And just when you finally got over your guilt for not understanding the ‘Inception’ Movie…they release a play).
Did you write the play?
I wish I did! (Laughs) Danai Gurira (my personal favorite artist) and Nikkole Salter wrote it.
What is your role in this play and how important is it to you?
I have watched this play. I directed it last year and now I get to be in it! I love this play. It is my favorite play in the world. Taking on a role in your favorite play is exhilarating but also is a lot of pressure not to mess it up. The characters have taught me a lot and I know this won’t be the last I play these characters.
How deep did you get in to bring out the character better?
When I directed it, I did a lot of research. I was also writing my own show, ‘Kawuna..you’re it’, where I interviewed HIV positive women here in Uganda. So, I had a lot of background on the subject matter. That said, all characters are people before anything else, before their situation. Therefore it is important I treat Abigail (the character I’m playing) as a person and not a person with HIV. So in doing that, all I can do is talk to my characters and let them inform me. Yes, I realize I don’t sound sane. Sanity is overrated.
Your Father, Dr. Coutinho, recently won the 2nd Hideyo Noguchi Africa award for pioneering efforts to expand access to life-sparing medicine to people infected with HIV/Aids. He is also participating in the festival by hosting a talk back. How do you want/expect people to take advantage of this great opportunity?
My dad is one of my heroes! He has done so much for HIV/AIDs in Africa and is so knowledgeable about the topic. It would have been silly of me NOT to take advantage of this. I hope he can give his opinion on the matter (with no statistics) and answer any questions audience members have. So by all means, ask questions on the spot or prepare some before hand.
‘Fashion Night Speaks Out’ is one of the most anticipated events of the Festival. Which designers are we going to see at the show?
By the way it is NOT a fashion show! It is ‘Fashion Night Speaks Out’. Fashion Night Out started out as a means to encourage consumers to shop and support the fashion industry during the tough economic climate. It is now a yearly event where fashionistas all over gather and support the trendiest looks in retail shops. In the United States, it also supports HIV and AIDS. NuVo has remodeled our ‘Fashion Night Speaks Out’ from this. We want to spread awareness about HIV, see everyone’s trendiest looks, showcase our local designers and show that we can have a classy event with solely Ugandan labels. We will be seeing designs from Qulture, De.fi.nition, Kwesh, Kunda, Kiroto, Namia Coutoure, Balungi, Claire Tendo, Biika, Halisi, XP clothing and E-T Mars.
A lot of people are going to be very Inspired by the events of the festival. With inspiration comes the desire to help and be a part of a great project. How can the public be able to be a apart of the HIV/Aids awareness after the festival?
In any way they know best. If you are a musician, write a song about it. If you are a writer, write something about it. If you are a doctor, help out where you can. Whatever you are, do something that you are good at to serve this purpose.
Now you know! NuVo Arts Festival is the first of its kind in Uganda. Many times HIV/Aids awareness is presented to the public in extremely formal settings, which often do not attract the people that need this information the most (teens and youth). The relaxed atmosphere NuVo Arts Festival has created is a great opportunity to teach you about HIV/Aids. I love that most of the events are free so NO ONE has a reason to miss this exciting week! See you there!