The celebration of diverse African heritage is one of the recurring themes of Giants of Africa’s core values, and the festival’s opening ceremony went above and beyond to achieve that goal. They delivered what Gen z’s would describe as “understanding the assignment.”
For its 12th year, Giants of Africa facilitated over 250 young people from 16 African countries to join a week-long celebration of sports and diverse cultures. They demonstrated their dances and represented their countries making the opening ceremony one for the books.
Taking place within the BK Arena at exactly 4pm, the ceremony was graced by President Paul Kagame, Masai Ujiri, Sports Minister Aurore Mimosa and BAL president Amadou Gallo Fall.
The concept of the ceremony was introduced by a slideshow featuring the countries represented at this year’s GOA festival which riled up the crowd to some extent, but doesn’t compare to the exhilarating ambiance in the Arena all through the ceremony, that followed suit as time progressed.
To actualize the slideshow, youth representatives from the nations of Botswana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan, Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and others that began the show with not only their incredibly entertaining dances but also with afro centric attires with the colors of their flags that were an articulate celebration of African heritage.
The momentous entrance was proceeded by interchanging performances from Sherrie Silver, an award winning Rwandan British choreographer and Masaamba Intore, one of Rwanda’s most prominent traditional musicians. Both performances added flair to the show, but it was Sherrie Silver’s seamless transitions from one set to the next that truly stole the show. The performances she choreographed had an electric feel to them that transcended through the arena, which was a good warm up for the remarks from Masai Ujiri and President Kagame that followed right after.
When the cofounder of Giants of Africa Masai Ujiri took center stage to address the audience, he remarked on what a great 20 years it has been and expressed excitement for the future of sports in Africa, how the youth represented play an elaborate role in shaping the bright future ahead, and how much greatness Africa is destined for.
“The youth today is what the next 20 years will look like. This is a template for Africa and we are going to grow bigger and have our own league,” Ujiri said
In his conclusion, Ujiri acknowledged and appreciated Rwanda’s role in sports development in the continent, reminiscing on a time in 2016 when he was watching a basketball game with President Kagame, and the latter expressed interest in building an arena in Rwanda, only for it to be actualized shortly after and establish partnerships with Giants of Africa and the Basketball Africa League, after which the President joined the stage to deliver his remarks as well.
“We are blessed to have him in Africa” said Ujiri in reference to President Kagame.
President Paul Kagame commended the work of Giants of Africa in empowering the youth, men and women alike, through sports. President Kagame highlighted the importance of having so many countries coming together in a celebration of culture and sports, and to bring out African camaraderie in layman’s terms, he added his twist to Ujiri’s many African roots, which the audience reveled in.
“Masai has a Nigerian father and a Kenyan mother. I was born in Rwanda, I grew up in Uganda. My wife was born in Burundi and we met in Kenya and here we are. So Africans, that’s who we are. We are brothers, we are sisters.” Said President Kagame.
President Kagame was gifted a Giants of Africa customized jersey and a basketball from Ujiri at the end of his speech, which he wore proudly before his exit.
Proceeding their exist, the ceremony then transitioned into a more informal setting with crowds of people gravitating to the ground floor in anticipation of the main act, where they were entertained by a set curated by DJ Pyfo, as a soft opening of sorts, for the main act.
Diamond Platinumz hit the stage after the shortlived DJ set and he received a very loud and exciting welcome from the audience and his fans chanting “Simba we wanna party” which is a line that kept coming back in between performances.
The 33 year old Tanzanian bred musician expressed his excitement to be performing in Kigali saying “I come from the east of Africa and that makes Rwanda my home” which riled up the crowd and set the right tone for his performance.
Platnumz performed his most popular hits including Jeje, Inama, Tetema, and Why which he collaborated on with artiste The Ben. The audience seemed to have enjoyed the performances and his impressive dance moves. The sold out show then came to a close after his performance, however the festival continues on for the rest of the week.