Hundreds of youth sat silently and followed as several artists presented their various arts to recount Rwanda’s history; how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was shaped, executed, stopped and how the country has risen from scratch to renewal.
That was the mood at the Kigali Genocide memorial Amphitheatre during an event dubbed; “Our Past”, where youth gathered to learn through art as part of commemoration events to mark the 24th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The event focused on the country’s history as a way to understand better the past that was characterised by bad history that led to the Genocide.
It was more of educating than entertaining. The first young people to take the stage were “Poetic Justice” who mixed contemporary dances with poems. Two young female actors sat hopelessly, one acting as a mother and another one as a child.
The mother talked about the hectic past of segregation, discrimination and hatred that led to the Genocide. The child seemed confused asking the mother what really happened and how in unfolded.
Her message was that during the Genocide, the hills were not green anymore but had turned red; human beings became animals as humanity had turned against humanity.
The sketch of poems, songs of hope, love and courage plus plays ended, however, with a message of hope, that despite what happened during the Genocide, all would be fine thanks to efforts by the government to rebuild the country .
“We were scattered, homeless, and hopeless, we nevertheless survived, Abanyarwanda (Rwandans) was not the term, but Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa, words of classification,” said a young girl in a poem.
The second group on the stage was the trio of Weya, Prime and Icenova who thrilled the youth with their Icumu n’Ingabo (the Spear and Shield) song.
In the song the spear depicts a tool used by Rwandans to expand the country while the shield portrays the energy and the protection.
The song calls for oneness, strength and the courage to work together to build an inclusive country as Rwandans share the same blood.
The play named; “The tears in my village” talked about the village of a survivor who used to live with her family members but survived and lived alone in the village.
The area is surrounded by shrubs and herbs. One of the prominent actors remembers how she always played with the youth of her age, how her mother could take care of her.
“I always thought I could be with my mother forever but it never happened, I am angry but I have to reject it and move forward,” she said.
The event was also marked by talks where invited artists discussed the role of arts from the days before the government planned the Genocide and what the role of current artiste should be.
During the event, participants lit the light of hope and transmitted it from one person to the other.
“It is not easy to know what happened before you were born, it is not easy to remember the tragedy you lived, some of us were not yet born, some of us were too young but we will regain hope, we learn from the past, live the present to prepare for a better future,” Elisee Jabo, a poet and actor said.
“The event tells the story of bad and good history. It is told in an artistic manner. We have been able to follow and capture the messages throughout the plays,” said Nice Kevine Uwase, one of participants.
The youth were also lucky enough to follow presentation on the liberation struggle by the then Rwanda patriotic Army (RPA) in which the youth played a pivotal role.
The Commissioner General of Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS), Brig Gen (rtd) George Rwigamba, told the youth it was a sacrifice and patriotism that pushed the then youth to launch the liberation struggle, stopped the Genocide and then embarked on rebuilding the nation.
“I urge you to remember while renewing yourselves. You need to understand what Genocide was, its cause, execution and how it was stopped and prevent it happening anywhere again The plays reflect the theme of the commemoration event,” he said.
The event was started in 2012 by a group of youths under their ‘Sick City Entertainment Group’ to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi through creative and innovative artworks.