The Night They Bombed Uvira – Let the Celebrations Begin!

Activities were well under way.  A large covered shelter had been set up opening to a wide stretch of sandy ground.  The villagers had been out since early morning, clearing the litter around the village, cleaning the fish scales and guts from the hard, and there had been a tree planting ceremony.  They were all standing around this square of ground waiting for the entertainments to start.  But we had to wait for the boat, which was nowhere to be seen.  While we waited, Kelly introduced me to some people, some of whom I had seen before but who were now in suits, so I hardly recognised them.  A boat appeared on the horizon, it wasn’t ours.  I looked around at the stage.  On two sides the locals waited patiently, some chatter but mainly quiet.  At the bottom, a row of huge drums, and a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers dressed in Kung Fu type outfits, complete with Bandanas.  To their right were several troops of schoolchildren and their guardians, each troop dressed in different uniforms but with a similar theme.  They wore grass skirts (though most were thin enough you could see their shorts through them), they had different coloured t-shirts on, one troop were wearing “The Pope in Burundi” T-shirts commemorating his visit of seven years before.  And on their heads they wore the tops of gourds, the stems sticking up like antlers.

The Boat Arrives

The Boat Arrives

 Eventually the boat rounded the point to the north of the village, and it gradually grew larger.  However, when it got within a hundred yards, it was realised there was nowhere to dock, and no transfer boat had been organised.  A series of wooden canoes, a couple of outboards and another small craft went out to assist, and it was a curious sight to see all these VIPS in their finery, suits and dresses, scrambling unsteadily off the ship into these craft to be paddled ashore.  A minister, several senior civil servants, foreign dignitaries and local expat staff, all lumbering into these rustic craft and getting their trouser legs and dress fringes wet when coming ashore.

 The entourage progressed up to the stage, and took their seats and the ceremony began.  It was very well orchestrated, the drummers would introduce each piece with a brief set of beats, very catchy; a series of rolls from the band, three huge beats from the leader followed by a final flourish from the band.  They repeated it every time, but you never tired of it and it gave cohesion  to the whole affair.

 One after another, a series of dance troupes would come bouncing out.  Most of them were boys and men in their grass skirts, and the dancing was fast and furious, a lot of stamping, elbows and shaking of the hips.  Each time, a series of solos would be performed, an individual would come forward, and dance even more vigorously, pulling all sorts of faces, pulling tongues, rolling eyes and grinning or grimacing in turn.  It amused the crowd enormously to see a small boy pulling faces five feet away from the great Minister.

 Just when this series of displays became repetitive (it seemed every school and youth group had to do their dance for the ensemble), a different item would come along.  One was a beautifully graceful dance by a series of ladies, dressed in brightly coloured wraps, two people to a design.  They waved their hands and swivelled their hips, and sang an enchanting song.  My only concern was that one of the ladies, with a similar wrap and a flower behind her right ear,  was not a lady at all but a teenage boy.

4 thoughts on “The Night They Bombed Uvira – Let the Celebrations Begin!

  1. The Night They Bombed Uvira – Let the Celebrations Begin! – String Knife and Paper

  2. The Night They Bombed Uvira – Let the Celebrations Begin! – String Knife and Paper

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