Burkina Faso is a small west African country situated somewhere between Togo, Benin, Mali, Ghana, Niger and the Ivory Coast. However, hardly anyone knows about the country’s lively art scene which has created many locations for music, theatre and dance. Not a single weekend without any cultural events passes in the capital Ouagadougou. The people are brought together and they enjoy beer and kebab while being entertained by Burkina Faso’s rich culture. Everyone knows everyone, new collaborations sprout and spontaneous creations emerge from a glass of Bissap (hibiscus syrup). Fast-paced, colourful, chaotic – just like the festival itself. Every February “Rendez vous chez nous“ takes place in the streets of Burkina Faso. This year, the festival has transformed the city into an art gallery, a dance hall and a celebration location for the ninth time.

“Rendez vous chez nous“ is supported by the Burkinian non-profit association ACMUR (Association Arts, Clowns, Marionettes et Musique dans nos Rues). This collaboration of artists has existed since 2002 and organizes projects to maintain the West Africa’s „arts de la rue“ – arts of the street. The festival is the collaborations best-known project and has been organized by ACMUR since 2010. In addition, festivals have been organized by ACMUR in several other cities of Burkina Faso, as well as Mali’s capital Bamako. This year, 36 companies from 14 different countries (including Africa, Europe and America) will be present.

“Rendez-vous chez nous” – The whole world in a single place

A magician and a trapeze artist from France, Ghanaian acrobats, a Canadian artist collective, Tunisian actors, singers from Burkina Faso and many more will be part of transforming the public space into a direct cultural site. The festival’s acts take place on the streets, exactly where daily life is set – free and open to the public. This year’s festival counted 180 000 visitors and it appeals to all kinds of residents.

The goal of ACMUR is to strengthen social cohesion by presenting the arts in public space, the residents’ living space. Additionally, festivals like these try to create networking possibilities for African artists. A lot of them are still too dependent on Europe to achieve their goals. ACMUR describe their vision as to “democratize and decentralize West African culture”.

These are ambitious goals, but if you have ever seen an evening on the “Place de la femme”, a dusty square in the artists’ quarter Gounghin and all its high-spirited goings-on (illuminated watering cans in the trees, bold acrobats, shrieking kids, giant bouncing puppets and content men with beer) you would clearly see these exact goals being fulfilled. The festival and the artists have created spaces of life and the arts, leading to fresh narratives, encounters and visions.

Pia Stengl