Odile Gakire Katese
Known to her colleagues and friends as “Kiki”, Odile Gakire Katese brought home her theatre training from France to galvanize healing after the 1994 Rwandan national genocide. Her dream was to create opportunities for expression, reconciliation and hope through Theatre and the arts. It is this humanitarian mission of theatre-making that LPTW honors with the Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award, and Odile was an amazing choice as its first recipient.
To many in her homeland and in the international arts community, Odile is a cultural revolutionary. Born in Rwanda, she fled with her family to the Congo during the genocide. She and her siblings were raised in exile and Odile was not initially taught her native language and did not even know she was Rwandan. In time, she came to embrace her heritage and undertook to create in Rwanda an artistic culture where there was little, and to “officially declare my fire for humanity.”
As a theatre director, playwright, actress, filmmaker, poet and humanitarian, Odile’s work ranges from developing specific artistic pieces to establishing new programs and even institutions. Her impressive career to date includes creating the theatre piece Des Éspoirs (Wishes For Hope), a dance/theatre work which has been performed in France, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda; the founding of Amizero Kompagie, Rwanda’s first professional contemporary dance company; the founding of Ingoma Nshya (Women’s Initiative), the country’s first women’s drumming group with 150 members that broke the taboo of drums being played exclusively by men; and Ngwino Ubeho (Come and Be Alive), a dance/theater piece inviting a return to life through reconciliation with the dead. Initial development of Ngwino Ubeho was supported at the 2009 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab while Odile was a Playwright in Residence there.
As the Associate Director of the University Centre for Arts and Drama at the National University of Rwanda, Odile instituted a multi-disciplinary program of workshops, performances and arts festivals. Utilizing music, dance, theater, and painting. Her ambitious program simultaneously spotlighted native talent and entertained audiences fostering a national appreciation of what the arts can contribute to a community.