The second edition of Bergen Afro Arts festival (BAAF) is next week; running from June 16 to 20. According to the festival chief, known as Simba, he initiated the festival to unmask stereotypes, create network and to spread the philosophy of UBUNTU which means you are because I am and I am because you are.
BAAF is for everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and religion. Bergen is a diverse city and this creates an opportunity for a diverse event like Bergen Afro Arts Festival. The Bergen Afro Arts Festival started last year. It was a success according to participants. We at Bergens Verden wondered who this guy is who decide to start this festival. So we approached him for an interview.
Bergens Verden: Many people may not know you well, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Simbarashe Fulukia: My name is Simbarashe Norman Fulukia aka Simba. I was born and raised in Mbare Township in Harare. I am a father of two, Alvin & Aisha. I am married to my college- and colleague-sweetheart Caroline Rufaro Tedi. I am a professional dancer with Carte Blanche, the Norwegian National Contemporary Dance Company. I am also a dance teacher, choreographer, musician, and the founder and director of Simba Dance Ensemble – S.I.D.E. movement which is the backbone of Bergen Afro Arts Festival – BAAF.” He makes a brief pause before he vigorously continues “S.I.D.E. is a none-profit arts and cultural organization cultivating new models of creative collaboration and spreading the philosophy of Ubuntu (You are because I am vice versa). Simba Arts is set up as a model of community cultural development that integrates social enterprise principles, sustainability, cultural exchange, and artistic excellence.
“the idea behind BAAF lies in pulling the African community in Bergen and Norway together without regards to race, social standing, and occupation, political or religious beliefs.”
Bergens Verden: What is the idea behind BAAF and why did you decide to start it?
Simba: the idea behind BAAF lies in pulling the African community in Bergen and Norway together without regards to race, social standing, and occupation, political or religious beliefs. This also includes such people who are interested in learning about and experiencing the vast diversity of the continent’s culture. Bergen Afro Arts Festival wants to create and strengthen networking, as well as to offer the Bergen population a modern view into the wide range of African rooted traditions, arts and cultures. Through this encounter the BAAF wants to “edutain”, meaning educate and entertain the participants and public in the spirit of Ubuntu. Local people, diasporas, international underground, well- and less well-known artists are being invited to emphasize the impact of the festival with its communal approach.
Bergens Verden: What challenges are you facing as the director of BAAF when organizing the festival?
The festival chief admits sleepless nights working voluntary on improving the BAAF community. “I am a perfectionist who does not want to quit or fail – if all communities can we all can.” he says. While emanating great passion, he continues “I am a believer. I believe in hard work, dedication, passion, love, justice and equal right for all. There are many other good ideas that I still have to put in motion, most notably spreading the festival throughout the year. I think that means we’re heading toward getting more educational opportunities; I want to develop a young professional board, too. New blood, new energy, new ideas abound.”
“…I see BAAF being a permanent cultural festival in Bergen which seeks to create opportunities for cultural exchange that promotes sustainability, social justice and deepens cultural understandings and connections.”
Bergens Verden: Which dreams do you have in the future for BAAF?
Simba: “Dreams?” he says while trying to hide a little smile. “I live each day as it comes – I am not a dreamer. But nevertheless I see BAAF being a permanent cultural festival in Bergen which seeks to create opportunities for cultural exchange that promotes sustainability, social justice and deepens cultural understandings and connections.”
Bergens Verden: Where is BAAF taking place this year?
Simba: BAAF 2015 will take place at Bømlo Kulturhus, Litterateur house in Bergen, Café Sanaa, Muisk pavilion and Festplassen. The BAAF program can be found here.
Bergens Verden: Do you have something that you are really excited about for this year’s BAAF?
Building on experience from last year, he says “I am excited to see the BAAF team taking the festival to the next level.”
Bergens Verden: We end the interview with asking if BAAF is only a local event or if it is taking place elsewhere. If not, are there any plans to expand to other cities?
Simba: Yes, BAAF is only a local event (Bergen-Hordaland). But the idea, vision and the spreading of Ubuntu lives in me – therefore I will continue to spread this philosophy to other places under the sky.” he says. He thanks his supportive board and the people around him who share his vision, before finishing the interview with: “If we had a proper office and some fulltime employees, for example a secretary and a director, we could achieve twice as we do today.
Bergens Verden reflects that this sleepless festival chief maybe has some dreams in him after all. Or maybe it is a vision of what is to come?…….