Another day in Rwanda, another day of amazing experiences!
We started our day with a visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre which is a museum as well as a tribute for the Rwandan genocide in 1994. We were first taken to the mass graves which serve as a resting place for over 300,000 lost Rwandans, one third of those who were lost during the genocide. We laid down a bouquet of flowers, to show our respects, with a ribbon that said “Remembering always-never again.”
The centre was split into several sections. The first section guided us through the history of the genocide; focusing on political influences that started the ideas of ethnic cleansing. There were walls of information-supplemented with many images, articles, and videos. We were able to gain a better understanding of how the ideologies during the genocide began and how they were carried out.
While the centre mainly focused on the genocide in Rwanda, it also had a section dedicated to genocides all around the world. Ranging from Serbia to Cambodia as well as the Holocaust, the different stories showed that genocide is a world wide dilemma and its devastating effects are not exclusive to Rwanda.
The final portion of the tour guided us through a tribute of those who did not survive the genocide. There were multiple rooms where photos of lost family members lined the walls and dedications were created for children who lost their lives so young. There was an exhibition of the remains of Rwandans who had been killed that included clothing, bibles, rosaries, and other personal items.
The memorial centre was surrounded by many beautiful gardens. Many of them serving as tributes to those who had passed, but also celebrating their lives. There were also areas within the gardens that contained sitting areas for visitors to self reflect on the information they had received and think about their involvement within the genocide.
The experience at the memorial centre left us feeling somewhat lethargic but also inspired. Rwanda’s ability to continue to fight and rebuild itself after experiencing such high levels of travesty is very inspiring.
Later in the evening we visited Ishyo Arts Centre,a cultural centre in Kigali. Carole Karemera (one of the founders and artistic director) invited us to see the performance Littoral de Wajdi Mouawad. We were all very excited to have an opportunity to visit the centre as we had been told that there are not many arts facilities in Rwanda. We had also been very excited to see the centre after talking to Carole a couple of days ago at KIE. When hearing about her experiences in the arts and how she started the centre we realized much of what she does is related to applied theatre and it was wonderful to see her influences in Africa.
The performance, which was presented by Isoko the Theatre Source, involved 8 Rwandan actors and was performed primarily in french with some hints of english. Although many of us do not speak french the play still had very clear messages and story lines.
Littoral followed the journey of a young man, Wilfrid, in Montreal who’s father passes away. Wilfrid is determined to bring his father back to Rwanda to bury him in his homeland. Along the way, Wilfrid meets many others who have their own stories of struggle and survival. The play was originally set between Canada and Lebanon but had been adapted to take place in Rwanda. Through the use of theatre, dance, song, and images, Littoral presented very clear connections to the genocide history and survival stories of Rwanda.
Watching an entire play in a completely different language was a perfect reminder that theatre, and the arts in general, can truly serve as a universal language. It was reinforced for us that the work we do in applied theatre can be taken to so many communities where we can share our stories and discussions in a truly unique common language.
Overall it was a great day. We are so appreciative for Jean and Leon and the opportunities they have provided for us to truly experience the country; past and present. We continue to be grateful and surprised by all of our encounters in Rwanda.
Before I sign off, I would like to give a quick shout out to the staff at Civitas. They have been overwhelmingly pleasant during our entire stay. Every morning we come down for breakfast and we are greeted with smiles all around. They’ve even managed to remember all of our names! We thank them for making our stay in Rwanda so delightful and relaxing.
For everyone back home-we miss you, hope all is well!