Rugamba on creating memories among Genocide survivors through performing arts

Dorcy Rugamba (C) is the brains behind the successful play ‘Umurinzi’. Courtesy

Actor and playwright Dorcy Ingeli Rugamba is the brains behind ‘Umurinzi’, a theater play performed during the 25th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 at Kigali Convention Centre.

Umurinzi, loosely translated as ‘the guardian’, is a documentary performance based on testimonies of Genocide survivors.   

The play was produced in four languages, namely Kinyarwanda, English, French and Kiswahili so the message behind it easily reaches not only Rwandans but the global community.

In an interview with Sunday Magazine’s Eddie Nsabimana, Rugamba revealed the inspiration behind the play and why Rwandans should stick with it while remembering their loved ones.

A scene of the documentary play ‘Umurinzi’ which is based on testimonies of survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

What is the play about and what inspired you to produce it?

I was inspired by Rwandan old traditions, mainly ‘Guterekera’, and replicated it in an artistic way to create an interaction between Genocide survivors with their loved ones who were killed in the genocide so that they are not completely forgotten.

What message did you want to communicate in the play?

The message in the play is that the Genocide should not only be about figures but also how important the Genocide victims were to their families and in society in general.

The 25th commemoration is different from the second or tenth commemoration. It shows time has passed enough since Genocide happened for the youth to take over initiative in the commemoration so they get reason to shape their future.

Who does the play basically target?

The play was targeting the general public who need to interact with their loved but fallen ones, but the main focus is the youth who are the future of the nation. We wanted to tell them that, although Rwanda has a tragic history, they have the capacity and potential to turn things around and rebuild a new Rwanda.

They constitute the majority of Rwandan population and their efforts are instrumental to building a new Rwanda.

Many might not have got the chance to watch the play. Are you planning more performances?

That is our wish. But it will depend on our financial capacity. If we get resources, we will perform the play countrywide to give a chance to those who were not able to watch it. Meanwhile, people will hopefully watch it on Rwanda Television, or a part of it on YouTube.

We are so many and it requires resources to take charge of every member in the team until the play is successfully performed.

It will also depend on CNLG’ plan on whether they want us to stage it in different parts of the country.

What other plays have you previously produced and how successful have they been?

Most of my plays were produced outside Rwanda where I work closely with Belgian National Theater.

But so far, I have produced seven plays about Genocide.  My first play was ‘Rwanda 94’, a six-hour play produced in 1998 by Belgium-based Groupov, a collective of artists from different disciplines (theatre, video, writing, music, etc.) and different nationalities. I was one of the six script writers and I acted in it.

 ‘Investigation’ (2007) which involves only Rwandan actors acting on Holocaust Genocide to describe how a country deals with trauma. This film was staged in different countries around the world, especially in Brussels, Paris, New York, Chicago and Yokohama.

More works include Blood Niggaz and Retour de Kigali, among others.

The performance of the play left everyone talking. What is the team behind it?

It’s all thanks to the creative team from Rwanda Arts Initiative. The team has done their best in casting skillful characters that best fit the play across all departments.







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