Rwanda is commemorating 25 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over a million people.
Two decades and a half later, the country is on the right path to full recovery but one of the key challenges along the way has been genocide ideology.
While in some cases, especially in the Diaspora, art is still being used in some quarters to fuel genocide ideology and denial, the country’s arts industry has evolved, with the music, art and the film industry playing a positive role in combating both vices.
Musicians, like other artistes in general, played an active role in perpetrating the Genocide against the Tutsi, by producing songs and compositions that did not only encourage people to kill others but also disseminated genocide ideology among the people at the time.
Today, as Rwanda continues to rebuild, the arts that were used to incite people are the same tools being used to promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.
Post-Genocide, music, art and film have been positively used to combat genocide ideology among the young generation and to tell the true story of what happened in Rwanda in 1994, which is often distorted by genocide deniers.
The New Times’Eddie Nsabimana had a chat with different artistes on the role of music, and arts in general, in Rwanda’s efforts to combat genocide ideology, 25 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Eric Kabera, film director, and founder of Rwanda Film Festival
Film is such a powerful tool to change perceptions and ideology.
It can be a very dangerous one that can be used to plant the seeds of confusion and propagate the double genocide theory if not well thought out, and at the same time promote genocide ideology.
It is always a tough battle to look for that balance.
Films have helped create a mobile memorial, from Tokyo to Cape Town and from Ismailia in Egypt to California.
These are places where we have personally taken our films dealing with the memory as we present in order to preserve the memory of our loved ones.
It is a hard call, it is very haunting and this is no entertainment.
When one gets rewarded it gets even more confusing. In a way, the film and the role of art has been a bridging gap to those who know very little to those who knew nothing. We still have a lot of stories to tell.
Rwanda has hugely benefited from the role of the films made on the memory of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
We have already seen the results as many young men and women have embarked on the path of telling the story of our country and continent. Film has that power to change things.
Dieudonne Munyanshoza, musician
Looking back at the dark chapter the country went through, I can say we are in a period of resurrection and arts, particularly music, have contributed a lot in preserving the memory and reminding people not to forget what happened.
It has also helped in the healing of the survivors and building the spirit of joining hands in the reconstruction process and embrace unity and reconciliation.
Obviously, our music has also played a big part in educating people who were involved in the Genocide against the Tutsi and those who were denying the Genocide.
As a result, cases of genocide ideology have reduced thanks to the power of music, but we, artistes, still have work to do to uproot the genocide ideology, especially to avoid it spreading among the young generation.
Together we can fight it and win the battle.
Eric Senderi, artiste
I don’t doubt that music, and art in general, have contributed a lot in combating genocide ideology.
I believe our music has the power to change people in one way or another, given the role it played in the rebuilding process of the nation.
We have used music to tell the truth of what happened and it has bore fruit.
With our arts, when a genocide perpetrator, for instance, watches my music video with images of some people killed in a given village, they feel remorse and recall their actions.
On the other hand, a survivor feels relieved because I helped them to tell the stories they feel unable to tell on their own and preserve the memory. This is important.
That really heals the survivor and it helps the perpetrator to look back and reflect on what he did, feel remorseful towards the survivors and let go of the genocide ideology.
Our music has reconciled the perpetrators and survivors and it helped a lot in reuniting and reconciling the masses
Though perpetrators are getting old, some of them are only interested in spreading genocide ideology to the young generation.
Artistes have the task to educate the young generation, tell them the truth of what happened in Rwanda so that we help them escape from the evil lies from their parents and grandparents.
Innocent Mugisha, visual artist/ illustrator
I remember a drawing that won me the Kwibuka Art Competition prize organised by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) in commemoration activities, both locally and abroad. I won the award while I was still in high school.
The drawing was depicting our country, Rwanda, in three images: Rwanda slightly before the Genocide, Rwanda during Genocide and Rwanda after Genocide.
That drawing helped me discover that even young people like us can use our talents to tell our stories so we do not have to listen to those lies from abroad.
Illustration is a language that people can understand, whether they can or cannot read and the message can be spread as soon as possible.
So, if I can do illustration of something in different contexts and it has the power to spread the message wide, why can’t we use illustration in fighting Genocide ideology?
If I send my illustrations abroad [especially in Europe] and the message they carried was able to spread widely out there, then why can’t the same illustrations be used with messages that can fight genocide ideology in my country?
As artists, we have that responsibility.
Laura Musanase, Actress
Everyone knows what happened in Rwanda during the Genocide against the Tutsi. Some read about it, others have heard stories of the tragedy; and film is among the avenues through which you can communicate to people about these horrific events.
In particular, Rwandan actors have a role in telling our country’s history and fighting genocide ideology as a way of contributing toward building a Rwanda free of hate and the ideology that nearly wiped our country off the face of the earth. Many people watch film and it’s an opportunity for us in the industry to raise awareness about the atrocities that happened in this country and how we can ensure that that dark chapter never returns.