Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Last Days - part two

Saying Au Revoir to Laurette Kabanyana - we dine at Shokola in Kigali. 14 Canadians and the Rwandan woman who had to put up with us. Judging from my gut, I have been having a few too many dinners like this one.

Rick Banville enjoys a post-dinner bong

Lunch the next day at Bourbon Cafe with Hope Azeda (left) and Carole Karemera (right) to discuss moving Goodness into Kinyarwanda. Hope and Carole are among the tremendous theatre artists that make the scene happen in Kigali.

Space Research - looking at performance space options in Kigali for the next time. This is the theatre at Ishyo Arts Centre

Florence Kabanyana, our guide for a day-long tour of Nyamata and environs

A section of the church at Nyamata, where the clothing of the vicitims is placed (as indeed it is throughout the church - the site of 11,000 murders). It was in this section of the church that children under five were killed. Some of their blood is still on the walls.

Gord sits alone after visiting the Nyamata site.

Layne sits alone at Nyamata

Skulls in the crypt behind the Nyamata church. This one has the tell tale sign of melted plastic on its forehead. This person was tortured before being murdered.

Belongings. The church is full of the clothing and objects of the dead.

A skull upon which someone had written a name: Patrice.

Charles Mugabe, one of only seven survivors from the slaughter at Nyamata, shows us the crypt with some of the victims' remains.

A blood spattered Mary at the Genocide memorial church at Nyamata

At the Nyamata Primary school "B". We met a roomful of ten year olds. They showed us the beehives they've been making.

A farmer whose farm we visited. He fled the approaching RPF in 1994, and lost everything. He now farms bananas, mangos, oranges, casava, sorghum, beans and owns two cows.

Basket weaving lessons. Lili learns the art of the distinctive Rwandan weaving method.

Dancers dance for us at the Millenium Village near Nyamata. An amazing day.

Among the final sights and sounds:

1) A tour of Kigali, looking at possible theatrical spaces for The Africa Trilogy - Volcano's next large project, and one which I would love to have tour here.

2) A meeting at the Bourbon Cafe with Hope Azeda and Carole Karemera about finding a translator for Goodness into Kinyarwanda, and how to begin the process of creating a production here. Both women run theatre companies, and are keen to team up with Kiki to create a Rwandan production. Essentially, I pass the torch to them, and offer to help, should they want me to.

3) A final dinner for our new and dear friend, Laurette Kabanyana, at Shokola - a local, Morrocan-influenced restaurant. Laurette has become much more than a translator to us. She feels like part of the family.

4) We make a day-long trip to Nyamata and environs, guided by the effervescent and articulate Florence Kabanyana. We visit a church where 11,000 people were murdered, and meet one of the seven survivors, Charles Mugabe. Charles is a remarkable young man. Powerfully built, and gentle. He tells us what he saw in the church that day. It is a vision of hell. Babies and toddlers being dashed against the walls. Grenades. Educated victims having their brains literally smashed out with hammers. Rape. Burning plastic dripped on faces. Dismemberment. Some of our group break into jags of crying. Charles remains calm. Soft spoken. He shows us the mass grave behind the church, where his parents and four of his family are (he is one of the lucky ones to know which bodies were his relatives', if one can call this luck). There are and rows of rows of skulls, piles of bones. He shows us where he lay for days under bodies, covered in other people's blood. His brother had told him to play dead, and put his head in a small space in the wall where some bricks had been dislodged. It worked. Rick asked him if he had ever told his story in its entirety to anyone. No, says Charles. It is long. Every hour has a story over the 30+ days of hiding and running through swamps. It would take many hours to tell it.

I hope some day he can.

Charles Mugabe. Survivor. A gentle and lovely man.

5) We visit a primary school. The students all think Gord looks like Jesus. Gord is embarrassed.

6) We visit a village that is part of the Millenium Village Project - where former perpetrators, survivors and returnees are living together. This is a pilot project whose goal is to create a reconciled, self-sustaining village, where the UN's Millenium Develoment Goals are being met (the project that Josh Ruxin is involved in). It is working. The village performs for us - dancers and singers dance and sing. A former perpetrator speaks to us, formally. Telling of his years in prison, his release, and the slow journey towards living together with trust. A victim then gives her testimony. This is clearly a damaged human being, but she speaks of the importance of living for the future, not the past. We are offered food and drink. We are pulled from our seats to dance. We then offer to sing for the village, and they gather around us. We sing some songs from Goodness - which clearly are welcomed. I don't think many Muzungus sing for this village. Emails are exchanged. Many hands are shaken. Smiles abound. We drive back to Kigali.

7) A gathering of Rwandan and international artists happens at L'Atelier - a small restaurant on a steep hill. Theatre artists from Kigali, London, Brussels, Melbourne and Toronto exchange notes. Theatre in Kigali is in a remarkably similar place to theatre in Toronto in the late sixties, early seventies - i.e. at the beginning. We meet Rwanda's pioneers. They are - like so many people we have met here - articulate and visionary.

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