I spent yesterday morning in silence. We visited the genocide memorials in churches at Ntarama and at Nyamata. We reflected on those lost and the pressures and influences that lead up to this time. The tattered clothing and tarnished remnants of the victims sat solemnly there, posing questions that Rwandese people are asked to answer every day since the end of the genocide. Questions that we, visitors in this country, have only just begun to consider. I felt the weight of my privilege. Here I was, mourning events that I did not have to experience.
I am continually awed by the resilience of Rwanda. The earth at these sites knows of what happened in these places. It bore witness to every act, and still it grows lush, verdant, fragrant, around the memorials. Nature witnessed the tragedy, but it is not deterred. So it is too with the Rwandese people we have had the privilege to meet. While roaming the church at Ntarama the sound of a chorus of voices wafted through the main hall, a signal of how the church may have sounded before 1994 and a confirmation that people continue to lift their voices and their spirits in the genocide’s wake.
In front of the memorial were more stark and beautiful contrasts: a group of young children running, laughing and cheering with one another. And then a majestic elder mother, the first elder I have seen in my time in Rwanda, who sat to greet us as we scribbled our reflections into the guest book.
Considering this tragedy has challenged me to think about human nature and our accountability to one another. Here in Rwanda, I am further developing my ideas about how my work can affect us as members of a global community. Theatre can ask us to critically examine one another and ourselves – essential components in building this ever-expanding community and avoiding reprisals of tragedies like that of 1994.
Later in the evening we had the privilege of bidding our hosts and friends farewell…more on that in Part II.