If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a photographer who has inherited many cultures. The styled shoot we accomplished in July 2015 exhbited some of the very culture I grew up with. Missed it? Click here for outstanding images. My mother is from Burundi, another small country in Africa many have yet to hear about. Fused between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania, Burundi is a beautiful country that has yet to be greatly represented , until now, in Atlanta.
My family and I had the opportunity to be a part of “Reunion 257” here in Atlanta. A 3 day event that celebrated and also brought awareness to the countries political and economical current issues. It was educational for me, as I am far removed from my heritage and an eye opener to those who are not aware.
I was given the opportunity to speak to one of the organizers of “Reunion 257”, Annie Irankunda, and I wanted to share the story and the vision of the reunion with you. In addition, I felt compelled to share the culture with you through the images taken by me.
Here she is…
Annie, tell me about you and what your connection to Burundi is?
I was born in Gitega burundi on August 15th 1990 to Come Nahabakomeye and Jeanine Ndayaremwa. At the age of 6 we fled to a refugee camp in Tanzania where we lived for a year in a half before coming to the US in December of 1998. For me growing up in the US was a little difficult at first, although my parents spoke English, my siblings and I did not. I had to take 2 years of ESOL classes before the English language became second nature.
My parents had one strict rule for us growing up. The rule was for us to not speak English in the house. It go so bad that my dad would not even respond to us unless we spoke in Kirundi, french or Swahili. I did not like that rule back then but now that I am an adult I appreciate them for doing that. At the age of 25 now I can have a full conversation in Kirundi, which has helped me relate and build relationships with my family members back home as well as the Burundian community in the US. Since I can remember my parents have always instilled the Burundian culture in us through their heavy involvement in the Burundian community in Atlanta. My dad was one of the founders of The Burundi drummers of Atlanta in which all of his kids including himself drummed. Since 2006 my parents started a tradition where we would take trips to Burundi every 2 years and that’s when I first fell in love with my culture. After almost 10 years I got a chance to see my beautiful country and knew that this was the place that I wanted to raise my children in the future.
To kill all the misconceptions about living in Burundi, describe one of your best memories of living there?
One of my best memories of living in Burundi is how much people love to come together. We were always surrounded by family and friends growing up. People in Burundi just love to come together and celebrate. We don’t need an event or an activity for us to come together, we just love fellowship. We come together in good times as well as bad times and that is one of the reasons why I am in love with my country! We love people.
Please share the story of the birth of the “Burundian Drummers of Atlanta”? Share the why, the when, the how and the what? How did they come together?
The Burundian Drummers of Atlanta were born in 2007. The Burundi Drummers of Atlanta is mostly composed by refugees who fled Burundi, following the inter-ethnic war between Hutu and Tutsi that burst in 1993. Their main activity is to showcase Burundian culture to other nationalities while building and strengthening the identity of Burundian youths who may be otherwise disconnected from their culture. Although the group’s name includes Atlanta, membership and performances are not restricted to the Atlanta area. Our goal is to educate as many people in as many regions as possible.
Burundi Drummers of Atlanta is a special group by its composition. The drumming group is not only composed by men as it was in Burundi tradition. It includes ladies who can drum, dance and this makes the group very unique. The group is also formed by the three ethnic groups that compose the Burundi community, Hutu,Tutsi and Twa (pygmy). Its amazing to see people from different ethnic groups who are in conflict back home share joys and working as a team in beating the drums.
Africa is the continent of drums but the drums of Burundi require extraordinary vigor,dexterity,agility and grace. Burundi Drums sound like rolling thunderclaps. You don’t listen to them with your ears; you listen with your heart.
Tell me about the event in Atlanta that just took place?
The first annual Reunion 257 took place in Atlanta, Georgia during the labor day weekend. It started with a conversation that I had with a longtime friend of mine named Justin “DJ Burundi” Ndaribamare. We talked a lot about finding a way to bring all of our friends who live in different states together. We came up with a date at first and started to tell our friends to prepare to come to Atlanta during labor day. We then made a Facebook event page called reunion 257 and made it a public event and it was history after that. We received great feedback and started planning the best get-together event in Atlanta for Burundians across the nation.The event was hosted by Burundian youths who all have one dream: Ubumwe, Ibikorwa, Amajambere Translation: Unity, Work, Progress. The purpose of the event is to get-together, unite, meet new people, network, volunteer, discuss opportunities to invest and develop Burundi. It was a 3 day event that included a meet and greet, a family barbecue and concluded with a meeting.
The event surpassed our expectations.The amount of support that we received was unbelievable and we are so grateful. Burundians definitely love to come together and it brings me great joy to be one of the 11 people who will continue to make this event possible. It was more than successful and we met all of our objectives. Our main focus right now is to continue to come together and show our fellow Burundians how they too can help with the development of our Burundi. The planning of the 2nd annual Reunion 257 is already in the works as we speak. We are looking to bring it to another state so follow us on Facebook “Reunion 257” to stay updated.
Where can we see more performances? How can we stay up to date on the next performances?
The Burundian Drummers of Atlanta travel across the nation and perform for various events like weddings, baby showers, engagements, or just social gathering. They do have a Facebook in which they post their upcoming public performances. If you would like to book them or get more information, their head drummer is named Apolinaire Nshimirimana and he can be contacted on his cell phone at 404-542-0033. Hopefully you can see them in a city near you.
Do you Annie, have any projects lined up you would like to share?
Aside from the 2nd annual Reunion 257, I am also currently working on a project with Anita Safo who is the Founder and CEO of Pop Productions. For the past 3 years she has planned, directed, and brought together an incredible fashion show in the Atlanta area called The Culture Shock Show. The Culture Shock Show is about educating the community and connecting new artists, musicians, business owners, and designers from all over the globe – especially Africa, America, Asia and Europe.The idea of “culture shock” originated from the definition and knowing personal experiences of those who found themselves at locations halfway around the globe, suddenly being subjected to unfamiliar cultures and ways of life. This year we are taking you on a cultural journey. Highlighting the similarities of African and Asian cultures. Be prepared for a show that has grown so much, “fashion show” doesn’t even begin to describe what you will experience after leaving Culture Shock! This year I am very fortunate to be working with her as the backstage manager for the show. The 4th annual culture shock show will be on October 17, 2015 at the Georgia World Congress Center. For more information you can visit www.thecultureshockshow.com. Hope to see you there.
Make sure you follow @TheCultureShockShow on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated first hand!
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