Forum

This week, a few of us have chosen to leave early for class so we could slow down our walk and enjoy our one mile trip. Our first walk, ten days ago, was very challenging, Our path was under construction and large portions of the sidewalk were unfinished. In only ten days, it has become an effortless journey. It is a beautiful brick sidewalk, hand laid by an incredibly hard working group of people.

IMG_0915

An added benefit to leaving early is that when we get to our rehearsal room we have a chance to chat with some of the students before the daily warm-ups begin. Our days are so full but we are all taking time to hear personal stories from the Rwandan students and answer their questions about our world.

After every one was signed in, we officially began our day. Julia, Laurence and Dragonfly led three engaging games which brought us together and opened up our imaginations.
• ‘Protector and Enemy’- choose one person in the room to be your protector and one person to be your enemy. Move about the room while keeping your protector between you and your enemy. Your enemy and your protector do not know you have chosen them and they have their own enemy and protector.
• ‘Finger Tip Touch’- partners choose who is A and who is B. B closes their eyes and A guides their movements with only a finger touching their partners finger. Switch.
• ‘Sculptor’ – partners take turns gently molding each other into statues.

After our warm-ups and usual laughter it was time to return to the Forum Theatre plays we had created the day before. With only a few minutes to remind ourselves of the work, we launched into our presentations.
A Forum play is a story of a protagonist who slips from happiness to despair due to an oppression. After sharing the original play, the drama is restarted giving audience members a chance to yell “Stop”, discuss what they didn’t like and then step-in to try to alter the downward course for the protagonist. The students generated the themes and created the content. They chose a range of subjects including forced marriage, abuse of a step child, nepotism and teen pregnancy. It was exciting to watch them create new directions for the protagonist and options for a better outcome.


The students were very brave in choosing these painful subjects and played their roles with gusto. Now that we know it only takes an audience to bring out their passion for acting, we will expect great things when we begin play building an original show to be presented on Friday.

The highlight of the day for me and for many of my peers was the cultural exchange which took place opposite the Forum presentations. This began with some really fun games that allowed us to learn more about the people we are working with. For example, I found out that apples are hard to get in Rwanda but that they are a favorite of my Rwandan partner. The game brought us back together several times and each time we were called together, we shared more about the delicious fruit.

After our games, we prepared an American song to share with our Rwandan counterparts and they prepared something for us. My group sang “This Little Light of Mine”, complete with harmony. Our peers chose “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Erin, Julia and Colleen, acted out the verse and the Rwandan students loved it.

Then, it was time for the Rwanda University students to share some songs with us.
THEY WERE FANTASTIC!

One of the songs they sang was a traditional song called “Ibare”, It was done in a call and response style. They added dancing which just pushed it over the top. It was so beautiful. Helen was jotting notes and already planning ways to use their great songs and dances in our upcoming play.
To finish out the day, we had to teach each other the songs and dances from our countries. My African dancing still needs work but the Rwandans picked up the Electric Slide and the Wobble and are ready to hit the dance floor. For me, the day was about the freedom to try new things and share new ideas. From Forum to the dance floor, there is always an opportunity to step in a new direction.

Brigid

 

 

 

Advertisements
Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Second Monday

Monday: Workshop Day 6: written by Brielle: Today was our 6th workshop day and the beginning of our second week working with the students at the University. Today’s focus was to assist the students in creating their own original forum theatre pieces. Forum theatre is a part of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. We started the morning off with warm-ups led by Colleen, Natalie, and Julia N. Next, Jess and BJ took the Early Childhood Education student teachers into another room where they led a special workshop specifically geared to teaching a range of interactive strategies (including adaptations of Theatre of the Oppressed) to little ones. This was facilitated through the use of storytelling and puppetry, through which, for example, young children can be invited to come forward, place a hand on the teacher-held puppet with the problem, and either say out loud, or whisper into the ear of the teacher, what they think the puppet could say to speak up for themselves and change the situation.

Meanwhile, in the large room, Chris asked the students to divide into six groups. Each group consisted of five Rwandan students and either one or two CUNY MA students. In order for forum theatre to be successful, it is necessary for the group to brainstorm themes of oppression that they identify within their community or society. Examples of themes that came up within the group were corruption, nepotism and colonialism. Once the the Rwandan students had generated a substantial list of themes around oppression, the CUNY students encouraged a discussion around what these themes would look like,concretely. For instance, what kinds of corruption is Rwanda trying to root out? Who might be acting corruptly, and who would be the victim of the corruption? The goal of this discussion was to translate the oppression into inter-personal experiences that could be portrayed between the characters we would be creating.

Once each small group had decided on a specific oppression, we moved on to creating our theatre pieces. The Forum Theatre was created using three images: the first arises after the group decides who will play the main oppressed person and the main oppressor. One example was a boss oppressing a worker by demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion. The first image – or frozen picture – is the beginning of the play and portrays the moment of happiness – when the main oppressed person has a goal and optimism. The second image shows the first moment that the oppression occurs; and the third image portrays the defeat – when the main oppressed has been defeated by the oppression and has lost everything. From the outline created by the images, we fleshed out the play by adding lines and additional scenes.

After all the plays were created, we shared our pieces of theatre with another group and had them share with us. This created an opportunity to get feedback on what was clear and what was not. We then got back into our own groups, and worked on how to problematize and act with an audience member (spect-actor) who is invited to step into the role of the main oppressed, trying to fight back against the oppression. The audience member coming on stage to replace the original actor, can try out their own ideas for ‘breaking’ the oppression. The Forum Theatre actors worked on how to ask a spect-actor questions in character and to listen to the spect-actor’s suggestions. And then the day was done! We had all worked hard to create six original pieces of theatre in one day. Tomorrow we will perform them and invite spect-actors up to fight the oppression!

-Brielle-

Posted in Student Post | Leave a comment

The Nyamirambo Women’s Center

Ahh! Sunday arrived. After a stimulating and full first week we had our first free day where we could choose what activities we wanted to do, if any. With this “interesting and interested” group, it is no surprise that we had a variety of bids made for diverse activities.

Relax by a pool, please!

How about visiting a community-based church service?

Self-care day at the hotel.

A journey for stable wifi

Anyone interested in taking a cooking class?

Thankfully, we were all able to choose what worked for us, as long as we had a buddy to go with.

Oh! A cooking class, huh? That certainly caught my ear as someone who finds cooking to be very rejuvenating. So, thanks to Colleen’s organization and planning I, with four others, signed up for a cooking class with the Nyamirambo Women’s Center (NWC). And what a day it was.

image1-1

The Nyamirambo Women’s Center is a group of women that came together at the end of 2007. It started as a group of 18 women who had various levels of education. Some were finishing secondary school, one was in university, and three didn’t know how to read or write. With eventual support from two women from Slovenia, they started a literacy class for women in the center’s neighborhood who wanted to learn to read and write. The courses eventually grew to include a sewing course, an intro to computers course, and an English course.

As funding shifted away from the Slovenian government, the group began to think about continuing to develop income generating activities to sustain the center. This is how ideas of walking tours, the creation of purchasable art made by the women artisans, and the cooking and basket weaving classes came into being. Also, a woman from Switzerland learned about the group and helped train the group in tourism “protocols”. It sounds like the tours/classes are becoming more and more popular with around three cooking classes scheduled a week. Our experience was lovely and we wish them success in growing the self-sustainable model they are striving for.

Our day began in the brightly colored shop at the center. We feasted our eyes on the multitude of colors and patterns bursting from every corner of the room. With an explanation of the history of NWC and a quick (and helpful!) Kinyarwanda lesson, we began our journey into the cooking class. As Colleen said, from the start the whole experience felt like one big hug. We walked through the neighborhood to Aminatha’s house. She would be the chef we would be learning under.

image8.JPG

image9.JPG

Aminatha’s home is in a compound of five families. When the gates opened we immediately heard the word “mama!” and an adorable four year old leapt into her mother’s, Marie’s, arms. Marie owns the compound and is one of the original founders of NWC. The daughter was accompanied by her big brother who stood peering out from the door to greet us. Not long after that, we met the three-day old chickens and their mother roaming around the community area which was surrounded by five different families’ homes. Throughout the day, as we cooked in that space, it became clear that though the families were separate there was a general sense of community. This was particularly transparent as the four years old daughter would run from home to home, women walked around in towels after bathing, clothes dried on the line, and people went about their daily routines. The community greeted us with a general sense of warmth and would even occasionally jump in and help if the chili sauce needed assistance or as we needed a quick hand in any cooking related matter.

We learned to cook seven delicious dishes; dodo (like spinach), inyamunyo (plantains), ibirayi (irish potatoes), ikijumba (sweet potatoes), cabbage, beans, and maiz. Aminatha was a wonderful teacher who would model an action, hand us a knife, and let us finish the task! The smells that wafted through the air while we cooked over the charcoal burners  and added garlic, spring onions, peanuts, celery, and tomatoes to many of the dishes, were incredible. Yumbo!

image2.JPG

image7.JPG

image6.JPG

 

Though language did not seem to be too necessary with the great physical examples Aminatha provided, there was also a translator who joined our group. He was a 23 year old civil engineering student who grew up in the neighborhood. It was so lovely to chat with him about Rwandan and American culture, the history of the neighborhood, and of course food !

The area of the city that we were in is a predominately muslim neighborhood. When we inquired about what percentage of Rwanda’s population is muslim we learned that it used to be seven percent; however, it has doubled in size since the genocide in 1994. The reason for this doubling was explained to us as an effect of so many people being saved during the genocide by hiding in mosques. This added to what I had started to learn about at the genocide memorial, which was that in the Koran it says, “saving one life is as if saving the whole of humanity” and this was bravely followed during the genocide. Our group was grateful to hear about this part of history, which we had not encountered previously.

As we finished preparing our meal, we brought it inside one of the homes and waited for the people from the walking tour to join us to eat it. It was wonderful to see that in three hours and with six people we were able to create enough food to share it with the other tours, as well as the families in the compound. AND, if I do say so myself, the food was the best meal we have had yet!

image5.JPG

The day concluded with us shopping at their beautful store. The quality of the work is stellar and varied. They offered everything from baby clothes, to quilts, candles, purses, headbands, baskets, stuffed animals, and rugs. It was delightful to spend some time admiring their work and getting the chance to support it.

I am incredibly grateful for this experience and would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in visiting Kigali. Please find more information at their website http://www.nwc-umutima.org/.

With love,

Julia Nickerson

Posted in Student Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day trip to Nyanza

Saturday was our first day off from working with the students at the URCE. Our CUNY cohort, accompanied by our Rwandan liasons and friends, Jean and Leon, headed out early in the morning to the southern province of Nyanza to visit the King’s Palace and the National Art Museum. During the two hour drive, on impeccable roads, we marveled at the sights in the countryside: banana trees, rice fields, cabbage patches, eucalyptus trees. At every turn there was a different sight: women doing laundry, men working the land, children climbing tall trees, playing soccer or swinging on ropes, a bicycle taxi carrying a mother and child down a steep hill and a motorbike taxi whose passenger was carrying a large television. I even spotted a group of cyclists in bright yellow outfits racing down one of the many hills.IMG_8803

We drove through the villages and towns of Karengera, Muhanga, Muhororo, Buhoro (Paul Kagame’s native town as well as his parents’ final resting place), Ruhango, and Gasoro until we finally made it to Nyanza, the capital of Rwanda’s monarchy from the 11thcentury to 1959.

Nyanza is also home to the King’s Palace, a traditional palace of the Mwami reconstructed close to the original site.

The houses in the King’s Palace are built with wood pillars supporting woven layers of banana leaves, papyrus and grass. On the inside, one could find the wooden stool reserved for the king, as well as a fire pit used to chase away insects and mosquitoes. The king’s bed is covered with bark cloth made from the ficus tree. We learned that when the King and Queen were in bed together, they were attended by a group of ladies that sang love songs all night long.IMG_8602

Adjacent to the king’s house are the Milk and Beer houses. The milk house was attended by a woman who was the only one allowed to feed the king. While in service to the king, she was not allowed to marry.

There are many rules attached to drinking milk in Rwanda. Some of them are:

Never drink milk standing up. You should be seated

Do not drink milk and then eat meat

If you start drinking milk, you should finish it

Never refuse milk. You should take and offer thanks even if not drinking it.

The beer house was attended by a young man who would taste the beer before serving it to the king (in case it was poisoned). Beer could be made of banana or sorghum.

Next we visited the newer palace, built for Mutara III in 1932. The King lived there from 1932 to 1959. At the time of his occupation, it was richly decorated with European-style furniture. The house even has a garage that housed the king’s Volkswagen! All along the white exterior walls, a decorative border is painted. This colorful border symbolizes the Rwandan hills.IMG_8686

After a short picnic lunch on the grounds of the Palace, we headed to the National Art Museum. It is a large two story building with a wide wooden staircase lined with spear heads and a large balcony overlooking the sprawling hills. It houses an amazing collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures by Rwandan and other African artists.IMG_8736

Our final stop before returning to Kigali was to purchase the Rwandan special milk, a delicacy enjoyed by many Rwandans.  It is fermented cow’s milk that compares to kefir.

Back on the bus and before any of us fell asleep, our bus came to a screeching halt on the side of the road to make way for the motorcade of the President, Paul Kagame, speeding by down the road! In the last few days, flags, posters and banners for the RPF are seen hanging all along the roads and in the cities as the campaign for the August election gets underway.

We returned in the early evening to the bustling city, to our lively neighborhood of Kisimenti and the warm and always friendly faces of the staff at our home at Civitas Hotel.

Laurence

 

Posted in Student Post | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BRIGHT FRIDAY LIGHTS!

WARM-UPS

Friday was the conclusion of our first week and culminated into a beautiful blossoming of our mutual learning relationships between the Kigali Institute of Education and all 16 of us from CUNY. We passed them the baton and they were responsible for replicating the warm-up activities we engaged throughout the week. It was delightful to see their leadership and the ways they personalized and localized the various activities. Each of the daring facilitators brought an overwhelming spirit of pride and politeness to each endeavor that left many of us humbled and inspired. They also intertwined a gentle sense of humor into their facilitation that transcended language barriers.

One particular warm-up that was replicated with special poignancy is “Four Corners.” Everyone is asked to stand within the large activity room in the disparate assigned corners of which correspond to their particular key motivation for obtaining an education: 1) lots of money, 2) good employment and career, 3) learning about the world, or 4) being a good citizen. The groups are given a few minutes to discuss their reasons among themselves. Then a representative of each group comes forward in turn to state to group’s consensus and, hopefully, recruit others into their corner.

But it was the quiet, grounded, brave voice of a strong young woman who captivated us on all on the reasons to pursue education in the name of good citizenship. She spoke directly about the genocide in Rwanda and the necessity of decency, humanity and community values above all others as the purpose of education. Many people from other corners began joining before she even finished her statement. Many of us from CUNY unsuccessfully choked back tears.

DISCUSSIONS

We then formed small discussion groups of five Rwandans per CUNY cohort to review the four different rotating panels of the week, what they gleaned from each one, and how they will potentially utilize the tools and activities into their pedagogy. They amassed a shrewd roster of observations and future implementations:

  • increase humanity
  • learning in action as opposed to theory
  • freedom to think and express
  • decision-making
  • critical-thinking
  • mental and physical warm-ups
  • create happy, positive learning environment
  • interactively teach history, literature, geography, current events, etc.
  • inspire imagination
  • moral lessons
  • improve vocabulary
  • concretization
  • conflict management
  • collaboration
  • universal/adaptable to all ages
  • unity, love and peacefulness

As one student summarized, the tools we introduced to the student-teachers has “brought life into our lives.”

HOT SEATS

After lunch we facilitated a brief “hot seat” session where we sat in small circles as one of the CUNY cohorts revisited a role from one of the week’s previous workshops. This allowed the students to directly ask the character whatever questions they wanted relations to whichever dramatic situation they portrayed.

PLAYBUILDING

Afterward we began playbuilding with “Little Red Riding Hood” as the source material. The students went into their groups from the previous day and started from their middle image of the story. This was our first real opportunity to begin structured storytelling processes and introduce basic theatre staging and performance. There was an immense difference between their initial timidity on Monday and the playful trust they expressed with us and each other on that Friday. They had synthesized the elements of roleplay, concrete mime, image theatre, and other skills introduced throughout the week into short little skits in which the flora and fauna of the forest or furniture in Grandma’s House had contradicting commentary about the wolf and the impending dangers.

MISCELLANEOUS

Quite a few students made a specific request for opportunities to freely dialogue with the crew from the United States in an unstructured way that did not have an activity attached. Chris and Helen agreed to find a way to honor the request that the CUNY cohorts agreed was an important and necessary part of the community-building and cultural exchange.

Also, after Dragonfly tripped on an unsecured sewer grate on camp

20170714_162024

us [which was fortunately not in use!], a lizard hiding underneath was mortally wounded. A Rwandan student used his foot to put the struggling creature out of its misery. Although community ritual was not on the syllabus, this prompted Dragonfly–along with Anne’s help and the handful of remaining students–to hold an impromptu memorial service for the suddenly deceased reptile. We quickly made a tombstone for the unfortunate creature [which the students helped translate into Kinyarwanda] with a marker and a found tile chip, led everyone in a song, and made a mausoleum fro

 

m an empty toilet paper tube.

On one hand we all knew it was MAYBE a little bit ridiculous… but maybe NOT–since community acknowledgement of the value of life is exactly what has brought us all together for this two week program.

UBUMUNTU ARTS FESTIVAL

Friday night we returned to the Amphitheater Kigali Memorial for opening night of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival. In only its third year, that night featured a riveting and diverse line-up of performances that spanned age, culture and continent — as well as drama, music, and movement. It was truly a treat to sit back and enjoy the plethora of devised theatre and movement pieces after we had expended so much energy all week in pursuit of the same goals and spirit — theatre for reconciliation, community-building, development and justice. The evening was book-ended by a children’s choir and Congolese street dancers, with incredible variety in between.

After expending so much time and energy all week in the spirit of creation, it was rejuvenating to sit back and be inspired by others using theatre as a tool to change hearts and minds. We are lit by the light of the memorial flame, and the gentle passion of the bright and eager students at Kigali Institute of Education.

 

Posted in Student Post | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip to Nyanza

Saturday was our first day off from working with the students at the URCE. Our CUNY cohort, accompanied by our Rwandan liasons and friends, Jean and Leon, headed out early in the morning to the southern province of Nyanza to visit the King’s Palace and the National Art Museum. During the two hour drive, on impeccable roads, we marveled at the sights in the countryside: banana trees, rice fields, cabbage patches, eucalyptus trees. At every turn there was a different sight: women doing laundry, men working the land, children climbing tall trees, playing soccer or swinging on ropes, a bicycle taxi carrying a mother and child down a steep hill and a motorbike taxi whose passenger was carrying a large television. I even spotted a group of cyclists in bright yellow outfits racing down one of the many hills
We drove through the villages and towns of Karengera, Muhanga, Muhororo, Buhoro (Paul Kagame’s native town as well as his parents’ final resting place), Ruhango, and Gasoro until we finally made it to Nyanza, the capital of Rwanda’s monarchy from the 11th century to 1959.

Nyanza is also home to the King’s Palace, a traditional palace of the Mwami reconstructed close to the original site.

The houses in the King’s Palace are built with wood pillars supporting woven layers of banana leaves, papyrus and grass. On the inside, one could find the wooden stool reserved for the king, as well as a fire pit used to chase away insects and mosquitoes. The king’s bed is covered with bark cloth made from the ficus tree. We learned that when the King and Queen were in bed together, they were attended by a group of ladies that sang love songs all night long.

Adjacent to the king’s house are the Milk and Beer houses. The milk house was attended by a woman who was the only one allowed to feed the king. While in service to the king, she was not allowed to marry.

There are many rules attached to drinking milk in Rwanda. Some of them are:

Never drink milk standing up. You should be seated

Do not drink milk and then eat meat

If you start drinking milk, you should finish it

Never refuse milk. You should take and offer thanks even if not drinking it.

The beer house was attended by a young man who would taste the beer before serving it to the king (in case it was poisoned). Beer could be made of banana or sorghum.

Next we visited the newer palace, built for Mutara III in 1932. The King lived there from 1932 to 1959. At the time of his occupation, it was richly decorated with European-style furniture. The house even has a garage that housed the king’s Volkswagen! All along the white exterior walls, a decorative border is painted. This colorful border symbolizes the Rwandan hills.

After a short picnic lunch on the grounds of the Palace, we headed to the National Art Museum. It is a large two story building with a wide wooden staircase lined with spear heads and a large balcony overlooking the sprawling hills. It houses an amazing collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures by Rwandan and other African artists

Our final stop before returning to Kigali was to purchase the Rwandan special milk, a delicacy enjoyed by many Rwandans. It is fermented cow’s milk that compares to kefir.

Back on the bus and before any of us fell asleep, our bus came to a screeching halt on the side of the road to make way for the motorcade of the President, Paul Kagame, speeding by down the road! In the last few days, flags, posters and banners for the RPF are seen hanging all along the roads and in the cities as the campaign for the August election gets underway.

We returned in the early evening to the bustling city, to our lively neighborhood of Kisimenti and the warm and always friendly faces of the staff at our home at Civitas Hotel.

Laurence

Posted in Student Post | Leave a comment

Workshops, Artisans, and Pizza

After arriving at the University, applying name tags, and checking in the Rwandan students, we were lead enthusiastically and confidently by Ahn.  She reminded us of our “I am” statements from yesterday and told us that we are also all leaders.  After a particularly energetic round of ‘Follow the Leader’ in small groups, we made 8 circles and began to play ‘Paperball’ (a team of people tries to keep a ball made out of paper in the air as long as possible).  In the end, the highest number of hits  per team was announced and there were cheers of joy from all the teams. IMG_1630

As we near the close of our first week we are making an effort to make sure everyone knows each others names.  To help assist in this, Helen lead a rousing game of ‘Name, Name, Name.’

After that, Chris and Helen demonstrated three part ‘Routines’ with the help of Kat, and we all joined the Rwandan students in groups to create short scenes set during special occasions that included routines. Some of these scenes included weddings, baptisms, New Years, and birthdays.

IMG_1635

We split the students up into their four separate groups and led our Theatre of the Oppressed, process drama, poetry, and fabric session one more time.  Each time I perform the Theatre of the Oppressed piece I have been struck by how much more the Rwandans are willing to debate, make offers, and join us in performing.

After a morning of facilitating we rode a bus to the Artisan Market where  local artisans sell their work.  We saw amazing craftsmanship in baskets, jewelry,  paintings, and woodwork. A slow moving stream flowed over concrete steps and those of us who finished shopping before others sat in the shade of an avocado tree.

We walked to a local Italian restaurant for dinner.  The out door seating was in a lovely, multi-layered garden overlooking the skyline of Kigali.  As pizza and pasta were consumed we toasted to the end of this round of workshops.  I’m looking forward to reflecting on them tomorrow with the Rwandans and moving into play building next week.

~Jess

Posted in Student Post | Leave a comment