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Thursday, 12 July 2007 Written by Nikola Babić

acrobatI have been in Africa more than 10 months now working as a volunteer in a Youth Centre in Gatenga. Father Danko Litric from Croatia has been a director of this Centre in the past. During my time here I had the opportunity to meet most of the Croatian Missionaries in the region, but most often I met fra Ivica, since Kivumu, where he is staying is just some 40 km from Kigali. I have often been a guest in Kivumu and always felt most welcome. I liked when I had an opportunity to do even some small services for the friars and what I most often did was computer work as this is what they appreciated. Everybody knows our Gatenga centre around here. The first thing that people think about when Gatenga is mentioned, is not actually Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesians and the inspiration for such youth centres, but, of Acrobatics, which is so popular in this centre.  Acrobatics is not so common here in Rwanda and these boys are such great performers and are thought to be spectacular.

guardian allmightyFra Ivica booked our boys for an acrobatic show last month, to help the Franciscans in Kivumu, celebrate their school day.  Being a member of the Salesian community I came along as well. We loaded our materials on to the truck and with 15 acrobats went to Kivumu.  In keeping with one of the stereotypical African traditions we were a little late for the Holy Mass but we still got a great Franciscan welcome. Our boys were delighted with the warm breakfast which they got-- tea, biscuits and bread. It doesn’t happen often that people offer them something when they perform, but in Kivumu they ate twice! After the first meal they changed and started warming up and stretching in a classroom while the rest of the program started in front of the school. As always Ivica kept me busy taking photographs and videos of the show but that is something I usually do and like.

It was very busy in front of the school. Everywhere there were some displays of the students’ work, from the construction department a miniature house: from the carpentry section some tables, benches and chairs and from the tailoring section some lovely samples of clothing for men, women and children. The most beautiful work was of course for the students themselves and they all looked stunning.

tribal danceIn Rwanda for occasions like this traditional dancers are a must have so after a small introduction the dancers started performing. To the sound of drums and songs they showed some of the rich Rwandese tradition. There were all sorts of dances, from both male and female dancing styles including the “Intore” dance, where dancers carry spears and wear long blonde hair like lions. Rwandese people are known all over the world by their traditional dances.

Eventually it was time for our acrobats to perform. Quickly they set up their materials, played their music and the show began. The performance lasted for more than one hour and the program was really rich. There were acrobatics, gymnastics, yoga clowning, juggling, and from the happy looks of the faces, the clapping in the crowd and the photographs I took it was obvious how much everyone enjoyed it. This was such a novelty in Kigali and our boys got a lot of praise.

german ambassadorWhen the programme was over the German ambassador made a speech and explained to everyone that Fra Ivica, the wife of the ambassador and I all came from the same tribe and he pointed out the shapes of our faces and noses.  He thanked people for having come and thanked the Franciscans for having extended the invitation. Then students got their diplomas. Prizes were given to the three best students from each section. And of course there were more songs and dances.

After all the celebrations - what everyone was waiting for - a big Lunch!  Everyone knew that a cow had been slaughtered the day before. Everything had been prepared by the students themselves. They had worked very well and together as this was their day, their special school day,  and they wanted to shine. In true Franciscan spirit we all ate together, people and visitors. Usually in Africa those who are a bit more “important”  get special treatment and eat apart, so I was especially glad that it was organized differently here, in a way that we could all be together in a big hall. Students, ex students, parents, visitors, acrobats, we all had the same lunch and there was even a drink for everybody! What a feast!

After lunch I wanted to stay to see other parts of the programme and to watch some games but our acrobats wanted to go home to Kigali so I accompanied them.  With full stomachs we thanked our hosts, loaded the truck and went back. I was especially happy seeing the happiness of everyone else - the guests, Ivica, the students of Kivumu and my students.

Father Vjeko Center

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