Behind Kaya International Dance Festival

Artists at Kaya Festival

The creation of Kaya Festival

Kaya Festival was founded in 2017 by the Mozambican dance couple Frida Fritsney Gazane and Junior Gazane. With almost four hundred participants from all over the world coming together and creating something fantastic, I had to find out how it all started. Seldom have I experienced such a sense of “estamos juntos” at a dance festival. Directly translated it means “we are together”, it is a very Mozambican expression used in everyday conversation, it recognizes the human need for togetherness. Two weeks after my last dance at the Kaya Festival, I sat down with Frida to hear how it all really began.

 

“The dream of Kaya started when my partner Junior and I went to the world’s kizomba  championship in 2016. We found a lot of financial difficulties as a young dancing couple. By winning the championship we got the opportunity to tour Europe and participate in festivals. Wherever we were performing, people were saying that they would love to know Mozambique, but how is the dancing scene there? At the time, Mozambique didn’t have any international dance platform to share with them. 

 

We thought, how come we have so many talented dancers in our country and yet we don’t have events or festivals like this there? When we came back from Mozambique, we said, okay we need to do something, we need to create a way to put all these talented people together. Not only that, we want to create a way to make the other organizers, other event planners, overseas to see what we do, and create the opportunities to take us there. That is how we decided to start Kaya in 2017. We launched it as a platform to create opportunities for dancers to expose their works on an international stage.”

Kaya in Maputo
Artists at Kaya Festival

I think the first time I heard you say this, that the purpose of Kaya is to benefit all, it took me a little bit by surprise. In my experience, this generosity is not the normative attitude in dance communities. What is it that propelled you and Junior to take this inclusive approach when you built Kaya? 

 

“In dance communities in general, there is a lot of politics (drama/conflicts/stinginess) everywhere. But when it comes to me and Junior, we are united by dance. Everything we do in our lives, from the professional side to the personal side, is all related to dance. We believe that dance brings a lot more than just happy moments. We believe that it brings union, it brings people together in a way where we can grow without judging.  

 

Principally, because we live from dancing, we saw difficulties in receiving support from other communities to grow our careers as dancers. From the moment that we participated at festivals in other countries, there were more chances for us. Right now we travel every month to different countries in Africa and in Europe doing workshops. So we thought that if we can have something like this in Mozambique, we will be able to expose our local talents. It will be a chance for them to also get the space or the opportunity that we had.

 

Obviously, not everyone will think like that, but we are grateful to dance for everything that it brought into our lives. We want other people to also have that same good thing, you know? I believe that with that concept, Kaya can be a little bit different than just bringing people to dance together. It can be an opportunity for growth. It is also an exchange of cultures between everyone attending, a way to unite people. A way to remind people why they dance.

This year we started introducing arts and dance to an orphanage where the kids that don’t have the opportunity to attend expensive schools that have dance. Now we can find ways to bring dance teachers to these places. We want to get the dance schools to volunteer at least once a week in these places. They can just go there and introduce, either if it’s dance or if it’s any other type of art, but we’re going to mainly focus on dance because we are Kaya. We want to give them the opportunity to know and believe that they can be a dancer if they want to.

The people behind Kaya

How did you find your way into dancing or did you come out of the womb dancing? 

“Well my family is a very happy and parting family, you know like, very extra. One of the things that my parents used to do a lot is dance. My dad loves dancing! Since we were small, me and my sisters, they always exposed us to dance and many other things. But I only started dancing professionally very late. I think because I met Junior in 2012. It was a time when I was quite stressed with work and felt I needed to start dancing. I went and I registered myself at Passos Basicos, one of the biggest kizomba schools in Maputo at that time. 

 

Junior was a teacher then at the school. So we met there and within a month, the school hosted a competition between teachers and students. Junior and I won the competition together. From there, we started to teach and every time we danced, people enjoyed watching us dance. We thought maybe let’s try to do a competition so we created a national competition. Before 2013 when I started dancing professionally, I was just a young girl who liked dancing… Yeah, it’s been a bit of a  journey, it’s been 10 amazing years!

 

 

 

How has dance impacted your life? 

Well. A lot of people say dance is my passion and oh I hear that, I love to hear that! What we normally say, and I’m speaking on the behalf of Junior too, we say that dance is our life. Most of the things that has happened in our life since we had the opportunity to start dancing is because of dance. Everything became dance. We became partners because of dance, dance partners, we became husband and wife because of dancing, we became parents because of dance. We became Junior and Frida because of dance, we created Kaya because of dance. If for some reason dance jumps out of our life, I think quite a lot of things will just fall apart because it’s 95% of our lives and it’s something that we love so much. I feel like dancing means almost everything for Junior and Frida. It brings so much happiness and comfort and understanding and, yeah, we wouldn’t change it for anything at this point.

Party at Kaya International Dance Festival
Party at Kaya International Dance Festival
Workshop at Kaya Festival

You and Junior are the founders of Kaya Festival but you seem to take very different roles, can you share some of the dynamic in your collaboration?

Well, what can I say? Before I was into dancing, I was a TV presenter. I’ve always been exposed to people and talking to people. When I came into the dance world, I realized that everyone that goes dancing, goes there with their own feelings, with their own energy, with their own problems. I realized that not everyone will look at someone who is hyper and super smiley and hugging everyone, not everyone will welcome that. But I have grown up in a family that is super partying and happy around people, so I was never a shy person. It’s different from Junior, he is more reserved. He will be there, he will still lead, he will still control his classes, his students, everything. But there is a certain limit that he will not cross. 

 

Actually, Junior is one of my main pillars for me to be so comfortable taking space. He will do everything and then he will pull me just a little bit forward and make sure I communicate. For me, it is super natural because I am a social person. I get my support from how Junior encourages me and has my back in order for me to always show up and be strong there in the front. It’s really a teamwork that we do together and it’s something that we don’t just do for our classes or the festival, it’s something we do in our personal lives too.

 

What is next for Kaya festival? 

 “The first priority of Kaya is the exposure that we want for our culture and to our artists. Kaya did have a very big achievement this year, which was being able to bring some of the iconic names in the global SBK community. This was just the start because we’ve noticed that there’s a very low number of participation coming from Africa at the international festivals. We feel that there is a need for us to put more of Africa there, but also to bring the other continents to Africa so that they also get that feeling – that energy that I know we bring. What we are looking for now is how to open up Kaya so we can accommodate more communities from outside. We want to get dancers from all corners of Africa that can come to Kaya and show what they do. 

 

We have that thing that we don’t actually value our own culture here. If we make Kaya big enough, not just for dance specifically but for arts in general, we will be able to bring more into our country. There are quite a lot of things that we still want to achieve and maybe, if we get the attention that we need from our government and others, we will start valuing our arts properly. There’s a lot to expect from Kaya, we are definitely going to grow!

3 thoughts on “Behind Kaya International Dance Festival”

  1. Pingback: Experiencing Kaya International Dance Festival - The global entity

  2. Monica Andersson

    I think the world need more of Kaya. Their intentions, their way of participating and sharing, the values. Seems very beautiful. Wish you luck❣️

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