The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, on Tuesday joined scores of people to watch the premiere of ‘L’espèce Humaine’ (French for ‘human species’), a play on the Holocaust, featuring Rwandan artist Diogène Ntarindwa, best known as Atome.
The play is based on a 1947 book by Robert Antelme, which he dedicated to his sister Marie-Louise, who died during the infamous deportations of European Jews.
In the book, the French author described his own hardships and experience in a Nazi concentration camp – one of the many such sites where Adolf Hitler’s German forces killed millions of Jews.
The play premiere in Rwanda was part of the ongoing activities to mark the 23rd commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, with the commemorative events set to climax on July 4.
Over one million Tutsi died during the Genocide in Rwanda in a space of 100 days while some six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust which spanned several years.
Also featuring in the play is French actress Maylis Isabelle Bouffartigue, among others.
Atome said the play talks about the cruelty of Holocaust, which he related to the brutality that Genocide victims in Rwanda were subjected to.
“There are lessons to be learned from both tragic events,” he told his audience at the Rwanda Revenue Authority auditorium in Kimihurura.
“In his book, Antelme speaks about atrocities and the perpetrators of the Holocaust but he also talks about the heroes that one can only imagine…all this makes you think about the world that we have today and one that we are likely to leave behind,” he added.
He said that when that he was asked to play a role in the film he was deeply touched by the history of the Holocaust, which he said has a lot of similarities to the Genocide against the Tutsi.
He said he organised a visit for some members of the cast to memorial sites in Rwanda, including the Bisesero memorial where the team witnessed the cruelty with which the Genocide against the Tutsi was executed.
“I also had an opportunity to visit the site of Auschwitz concentration camp twice. There, I came face to face with history, I was able to relate my own history with the place,” added the artist.
He called on the youth to reject hate and genocide ideologies so as to help build a better world.
Jean Damascene Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), thanked the actors for speaking out for the voiceless victims of genocide through art and theatre.
“This is one of the most effective ways to fight against genocide denial. Denial has manifested with regard to the Holocaust perpetrated against the Jews more than 75 years ago, the same is happening in respect to the Genocide against the Tutsi… genocide denial is real and is a continuation of the crime itself,” Bizimana said.
He singled out academics and researchers among those behind genocide denial and urged relentless effort to tell the truth and protect the memory of the victims.
Alain Ngirinshuti, who watched ‘L’espèce Humaine’ when it premiered in France recently, said he relates with the play because it depicts his own history besides that of the Jews who suffered from the Holocaust.
“It’s important that the memory of these human tragedies is known globally, I’m encouraged by the fact that more French and other people are getting to understand what happened during the Genocide in Rwanda,” he said. “This will help keep the memory alive, beyond our borders”.