In May 2017 , Rwanda Arts Initiative kicked off the introduction to Great Black Music to Kigali, a groundbreaking, interactive exhibition, showcasing the evolution of black musical culture through the ages and across continents.
This black music shapes world popular culture and transcends any ethnicity or nationalist concept. The exhibition showed this formidable musical journey, from the epic stories of the Mandingo griots to the melodic plague of the bluesmen of the Mississippi Delta, from New Orleans to Manhattan clubs, from Yoruba rhythms to the birth of afrobeat, from maloya to samba, from suburbs in Kingston, where ska and reggae appeared, to the empty grounds of the Bronx where hip-hop emerged: the voice, the breath, the rhythms, the soul of millions of slaves deported from the African coast to the Americas have generated a constellation of incredibly rich music. This saga is not specifically American, African, Caribbean or European. It is all at once.
The exhibition was hosted for the first time in Rwanda and East Africa after touring nine different countries: Haiti, France, Senegal, Reunion, South Africa, Brazil, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ouagadougou. The exhibition had reached more than 230,000 visitors since its inception in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil in 2009 and it brought new and joyful insights into the incredible history of Great Black music.
The exhibition was a multimedia installation that offered the audience a musical and sensory immersion experience via digital tablets with applications that guided the guests as they walk through the exhibition. The Great Black Music exhibition was staged and co-produced by digital arts factory Atelier 144, and curated by its founder, Marc Benaiche; in collaboration with the Kigali Public Library, which provided the space for the exhibition and auxiliary events for six months. With support from Africalia a belgian NGO, Rwanda Arts Initiative managed to bring together music lovers from across the region for a celebration of music, black history, and dignity, thus putting Kigali on the map as a notable cultural city.