A New York / Rwanda State of Mind.

This is Claro checking back in.

It is truly hard to believe that we’ve only spent 10 days here in Rwanda. I echo what my teammates have said in their previous posts in feeling like the days here seem like weeks and the weeks here feel like months. This is a testament to the rich experiences we’ve been able to undergo thus far here and today’s jam packed schedule was no exception.

Today started with Day 1 of our project with the Kimisagara Youth Center (KYC) and as always I appreciate the energy injected in the genesis of collaborative projects and the sense of potential that pervades the space. Interestingly, what makes this next phase of our work especially meaningful is that we are working in partnership with a few select KIE students whom we’ve worked with last week. I am valuing this simultaneous experience of widening our network in Kigali by working with a new community, the talented folks at Kimisagara Youth Center (KYC), while at the same time continuing to deepen our relationship with our co-learners and friends from KIE.

Day 1 at Kimisagara Youth Centre began with ‘getting-to-know-you’ games that were led by both us, CUNY students, and our KIE student partners. Again, I am grateful to see both my CUNY teammates and our KIE counterparts functioning as leaders who are actively helping to develop a bond with the folks at KYC. I also want to take time to appreciate the work of Chris and Helen and their devotion to an inclusive and dialogic applied theatre practice. This devotion was for me exemplified by the roundtable discussion (done in both Kinyarwanda and English) they structured with the KYC group in order to assess their needs and desires with our time with them. The KYC students were quite vocal about their desire to further investigate such aspects of applied theatre that ranged from the relationship between actor and audience participation, physical stage language skills, sight lines and staging, to a general interest in different approaches of devising theatre. In reaction to such responses, Chris and Helen skillfully made on-the-spot adjustments and structured the remainder of the day with introductory workshops on the image and forum theatre forms developed by Augusto Boal.

The workshops seemed well received by all involved and I am excited to continue this collaborative journey with both KIE, KYC, and my fellow CUNY AT team later this week.

The Market: Take 2

We spent the afternoon at the market. It was our second visit to the area and it again remains to be an experience that will always thrill me. The shop owners and merchants get a kick out of my speaking rudimentary Kinyarwanda and I enjoy the curiosity that I seem to share with many of the Rwandese people I meet. They are surprised I’ve only been here less than 2 weeks and so am I…

A film screening at the Goethe Institute Kigali

We met up with some KIE students in the early evening to attend a screening of a film on the assassination of Patrice Lumumba by Thomas Giefer at the Goethe Institute Kigali in Kacyiru. It was a stimulating film to watch, especially in the context of how the political content it raises very much relates to our work in Rwanda and how it effects the lives of the people and communities we’ve been engaging. It was also interesting to see how the foreigners, ourselves included, vastly outnumbered the Rwandese people in attendance at the screening. There is something ironic about attending a documentary film on Lumumba at the German-run Goethe Institute in post-colonial Rwanda while sitting alongside a predominantly western audience… Again, the experience was stimulating in a variety of ways and it raises many questions for me regarding the relationship of politics and art-making. In conversation with our KIE friends it seemed that the experience had also raised many questions for them and I am honored to share yet another thought provoking experience with our new like-minded friends.

Heart Knowledge

I am enjoying the privilege of experiencing Rwanda in multiple perspectives yet I know that it is only the tip of the iceberg. In conversation with Joey earlier this evening, I told him how I’ve appreciated the diverse experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to go through in this trip thus far. From museum visits, to community engagement, to making and watching theatre, to trying new cuisine, etc. Rwanda has proven to be not only the Land of a Thousand Hills but also the Land of a Thousand Inspirations.

Presently, I am even more grateful today for the opportunity to work with both my team and the various participants that we’ve engaged with in Project Rwanda 2012. There have been many great friends made in a very short period of time; friendships that are special and surprisingly deeper that expected. I appreciate the enthusiasm and warmth given by our KIE and KYC friends, the hotel staff members, the merchants, restaurant employees, our hosts Jean and Leon, our drivers, and the many curious bystanders I see everyday. I am inspired by Kigali, and to put my heart in my shoulder for just a moment, I will truly miss Rwanda.

Therefore, although I am a bit under the weather as I close this entry in my room at the Civitas Hotel, I will strive to cherish the moments and memories to be made in the remainder of my stay here in Kigali.

roots!

-Claro

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