This is Mel signing in for my first blog…
We haven’t written for a day, and as usual we have done enough activities in each day to fill many more days. Sunday was a “day off” (our first since arriving the previous week) and that meant that we could wake up when we wanted to, and fill our day with activities of our choice. Some of us swam at a nearby hotel pool, some washed clothes, others explored our neighborhood looking for internet café’s to check email. Some went just down the road to Amahoro Stadium, the national stadium for a mid-morning run…but mostly we planned all day in preparation to lead a 3 hour session with Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) Levels 1 and 2 students on the following day. So, while we had “nothing to do,” many of us worked all day (and long into the night) prepping and perfecting our plans for the following day’s session.
Today we started at 8:30 am, leading Level One KIE students in a Forum Theater session on challenging injustice, mistreatment and the culture of silence in family situations. Level Two participated in a Theater in Education (TIE) session on Patrice Lumumba and the post-independence political crisis in the Congo in 1960. Hefty topics, that the students rose to the challenge of, with flying colors!
Co-leading the Lumumba TIE session I was struck by not only the immense hard work my group put into fashioning a structure that supported the theatricality demanded by the piece, it also successfully supported learning of the participants to ensure their understanding of and engagement with a history some knew of and some whom did not. In just 3 hours we managed to lead participants through the experience of life in the Congo under Colonialism, the struggle toward and the joy of attaining independence and the challenges faced in the post independence period where the leaders and citizens alike had to wrestle with the tensions between competing personal and collective interests. In the end we reviewed how each person arrived at their decisions as well as explaining the structure we presented and talking through conventions and possible opportunities for reapplication. What a day! (and by “day” I mean a 3 hour session…)
Today, I left feeling energized by the session delivery; exuberant at the opportunity to conduct THIS session in Africa with the amazing Level 2 students who are sharp and amazing beyond belief; and in love anew with TIE (and Applied Theater in general) for the ways that is can breathe life into history. Particularly a history that, as in the case of Lumumba, seems so far away, but in reality is very close to the heroic national rebuilding Rwanda is currently undertaking. Today’s TIE session ended with “Graffiti Board” of the class’s hopes and dreams for themselves and Rwanda. With the outline of the Congo drawn on the board students came up to write inside of Rwanda our hopes for the country and on the outside we wrote our hopes for ourselves as individual citizens. This ending was beautiful and incredibly moving for me, so much so, it is one of the many highlights of my trip thus far.
After class, we had a quick, delicious( and did I mention cheap?) lunch to help us recharge from our session before hitting the African Market. Upon our return “home,” we each triumphantly showed off our wares in our evening meeting in the courtyard at the Civitas, before getting session feedback from Helen and Chris and beginning the re-planning necessary to lead the session again on Thursday the 28th.
Ahead of us in the next few days is devising work with KIE Level 2 students that culminates in a performance that is open to the entire KIE community on Wednesday (the 27th). I am wholeheartedly looking forward to the opportunity to work with the KIE students as collaborators and performers. If these are students are in fact Rwanda’s future teachers, this country and the world are extremely lucky to soon be in the hands of these bright and capable young people; they are incredible.