Arts & Humanities Campus News

‘The Book of Life’ brings African optimism to Athens

"The Book of Life" takes the stage at the UGA Fine Arts Theatre on Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. (Photo by Dahlia Katz)

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, 1 million people were killed in 100 days. “The Book of Life” is an uplifting theatrical experience blending storytelling, shadow puppetry and drumming that dwells on resilience and recovery—not loss—as it explores how people contend with tragedy through a fierce and joyful assertion of life.

Featuring the true story of Rwandan writer/performer/women’s rights advocate Kiki Katese and her “Book of Life”—a collection of letters written by ordinary Rwandese to the victims of the genocide—this play sheds a hopeful light on the plight of women and girls in Rwanda and the possibility of improving lives through art. It appears at the UGA Fine Arts Theatre on Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Katese herself stars in the production, which includes the all-female drum troupe Ingoma Nshya, which translates as “New Drum” and “New Power.” She founded the eight-member ensemble in direct confrontation with Rwandan tradition that drummers are always men.

“In ‘The Book of Life,’ there’s an opportunity to reinvent things; to dream; to try to undo something; and to propose for a moment another point of view, another way of the revisiting the past,” Katese said. “It’s like a ceremonial way to just rehabilitate life.”

“The Book of Life” is a coproduction of Canada’s Volcano Theater and Rwanda’s The Woman Cultural Centre.

“The wisdom of it, of Kiki, of the women drummers who have been so integral to the construction of this project—this wisdom is a light, a beacon for the rest of the world, as we all peer ahead into an uncertain future,” said director Ross Manson, founding artistic director of Volcano Theater. “Kiki’s artmaking is, in fact, a valuable and agreeable thing.”

Katese will engage in a brief post-show question and answer session, the first installment in this season’s performance lecture series.

This performance is supported by the Christine and Thomas Pavlak Performing Arts Center Endowment.

“The Book of Life” is one of two African events on the UGA Presents calendar. On Feb. 29, 2024, Grammy-winning South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo will appear at Hodgson Concert Hall.

Three ways to get tickets 

  1. Purchase tickets online at
  2. Call the Performing Arts Center box office at 706-542-4400, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  3. Visit the UGA Performing Arts Center box office, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (five-minute parking is available in the drop off circle at the Performing Arts Center for purchasing or picking up tickets.)

Single tickets begin at $25, and UGA student tickets are just $10. Parking is free.

To learn more about all UGA Performing Arts Center events, visit