Hamwe Festival

An Arts and Global Health Collaboration

Hamwe Festival

November 8th-13th, 2019
Kigali, Rwanda

Numerous studies and practical experiences have shown that participation in artistic and cultural activities strengthens health and social wellbeing. It is also proven that arts-based interventions can cure and prevent certain diseases. The evidence does not just show the efficacy of arts interventions, but also shows significant economic benefits, including cases of arts interventions showing equivalent or greater cost-effectiveness than certain clinical interventions while being less invasive, boosting self-esteem or reinforcing social cohesion.

Since it was created in 2015, UGHE has worked successfully on building bridges across sectors. We believe in this approach, as it has allowed us to gather new insights about global health problems and their corresponding solutions. Hence, we created Hamwe Festival, a festival that has the dual mission to celebrate the contributions of creative communities to the global health equity agenda and enable artists, scholars, and global health professionals to collaborate to improve health around the world.

From November 8th to November 13th, artists and global health leaders from all over the world convened for the inaugural Hamwe Festival to celebrate the collaboration between the arts and health fields. Hamwe Festival was created to bring the health sector together with the creative industries to explore new ideas around health care through new and unheard perspectives. Internationally recognized for leveraging the arts to promote better health outcomes, artists and global health experts shared their experiences and insights with festival attendees over the five day period.

The festival began with an opening ceremony featuring speakers from UGHE and PIH leadership, including PIH CEO Sheila Davis, DNP, UGHE Chancellor Dr. Paul Farmer, and UGHE Vice Chancellor Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, as well as Honorable Minister of Youth Rosemary Mbabazi. The work of international artists was on display at the “Beauty As Medicine” Exhibition, curated by Maison Beaulier, and attendees heard from French philosopher and psychoanalyst Cynthia Fleury on the role of arts and humanities in health care. The festival’s flagship event was the She Matters Concert, in partnership with Globe-athon. Rwandese singer, actress, and supporter of domestic violence victims, Nirere Shanel, performed ahead of the evening’s centerpiece; Grammy award-winning Malian singer Oumou Sangare, a legendary artist using her platform to advocate for women’s rights. 


Photo by Illume Creative Studio

UGHE also welcomed a group of students from all over the world to participate in a two-day Arts in Health masterclass, coached by lecturers such as Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Dr. Mehret Mandefro, Sharon Kalima, and leading pioneers in the field of arts and health. Designed as an evening of discussion, the ‘Hamwe Talks’ hosted the WHO’s Arts & Health Lead, Chris Bailey, alongside Didi Bertrand of the Women and Girls Initiative, award-winning documentary photographer Yagazie Emezi, and more. The festival culminated in a night of dance. The evening showcased the collaboration between world-renowned researcher and dance movement therapist Dr. Rainbow Ho and acclaimed Rwandese dancer and choreographer Wesley Ruzibiza, who curated performances that represented how dance can be a tool to resolve physical and mental health issues. 

Hamwe Festival is the latest example of UGHE’s commitment to radically transform health education and health service delivery as well as the University’s acknowledgement of the growing evidence base for the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing. We believe that the problems existing in the field of global health are complex and multi-faceted, and therefore require cross-sector collaboration to generate new perspectives to solve these challenges. It is now confirmed that Hamwe will be an annual event and UGHE will host the next edition of Hamwe in November 2020. In the meantime, we are looking forward to pursuing the discussion we started and engaging with this new community of interest with various content informing on and celebrating the contributions of creative industries in global health. Stay posted!

Watch the Highlights


To learn more about Hamwe Festival, follow Hamwe on Twitter and Instagram (@hamwe_festival) or send questions to hamwe@ughe.org.