Puppeteers storm art stage

Saturday February 11 2023

To entertainment enthusiasts, Gorizo alias Papa Gorizo forms the list of big fish, which when mentioned, heads turn.

The fame is for rare talents he has in puppeteering. When he stepped on Caravane du rire festival’s stage, Patience Uwiringiyimana, 35, the personality behind the art did not disappoint.

All drawn into his conversations with Gorizo, a young gorilla, dressed in clothes, the two captured the audience for their satirical arguments on societal issues like trends, dating and life as envisioned by Golizo.

This performance emerged as a grand return of Gorizo and Papa Gorizo onto the mainstream stage space. It was in 2018 when he popped up in mainstream and social media sites.

Unlike what some Rwandans had experienced before, puppet shows mostly through movies and foreign television broadcasts, it was real performance on the stage.

This captured a huge recognition among youth, children, and the few televisions which craved for fresh content.


Uwiringiyimana’s admiration for puppets picked up in 2017 when he travelled to Serbia where he met Paul Zerdin, a prominent British Comedian and Ventriloquist, who is the 2015 America Has Got Talent Winner.

“I expressed my interests in the puppets, and requested for his guidance, which he agreed,” Uwiringiyimana.

Keeping in touch through online training with Zerdin after returning to Rwanda, Uwiringiyimana gradually developed skills after a few months, and he was ready to perform.

Although it is gorilla show that the audience is familiar with today, Uwiringiyimana initially received snake and lion puppets.

“I preferred introducing a gorilla first since it is a creature Rwandans are more familiar with,” he said. Naming it Gorizo, as inspired by gorilla rather resonated with this stage act in making.

As an active broadcast media personnel then, acquiring a slot on Isango TV, a local television station gave his craft a span, “I believe it gave the station great viewership since people could always inquire about Gorizo,” he said.

When he got another job opportunity with an organisation in Kigali in July 2019, he decided to take a break from the stage, and the scene too.

Barely was he being commissioned for gigs, since puppeteering as an art hadn’t yet caught most event organizers' minds.

The Covid-19 outbreak is one which didn’t directly affect his career as he had taken a break, and was already working with a company.

“Amidst what I was observing, I was mindful, and wondering how to revive the career, since it had been a long without holding any performances, yet events had also been halted,” he recalls.

When his contract with his employer ended in August 2020, he made a come back.

“It wasn’t easy, for events had not been a green light, so I resorted to virtual means,” he recalls.

But his return took him by surprise, and on opening a YouTube channel, he gained over two thousand subscribers within two months.

“This was proof that I still had a chance with an audience,” he states.

Uwiringiyimana’s hope for the revival of live stage performance was not until first in December when together with he Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion he was commissioned for a campaign tour in schools.