The new generation of Rwandans had nothing to do with planning and executing the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in 1994. However, what happened 26 years ago affects the youth in one way or another.
Last year, I watched a play dubbed Generation 25. It was staged at the Kigali Genocide Memorial’s amphitheatre. The moving performance addressed a topic that usually makes our discussions uncomfortable. Through the play, the cast opened up and engaged in a difficult conversation.
This year, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda both at home and abroad are remembering and reflecting while practicing social distancing in compliance with coronavirus mitigation measures. Circumstances have made us more reliant on technology and media. Art is playing a significant role in making commemoration without gathering possible.
Generation 25 was a masterpiece from Mashirika Performing Arts. Since 1997, Mashirika has been transforming raw talent into marketable skills and educating the world in the process. Some of the most gifted performers in Rwanda, including Malaika Uwamahoro and Honorable Edouard Bamporiki, were groomed by Mashirika.
In a panel discussion that took place after the play, one character, namely Didier, shared his experiences growing up in a family made up of survivors on his mother’s side and perpetrators on his father’s side. He was raised by his surviving mother’s side of the family and didn’t meet his father until he was 14. He was born and raised in the absence of his fugitive father who had fled the country in an attempt to escape justice.
Didier shared the stage with Vanessa, a young girl who lost her nuclear family and almost her entire extended family. Both characters represent innocent children of Rwanda dealing with the trauma brought by the aftermath of the Genocide.
Generation 25 and similar productions serve as the voice of children left behind by victims and those belonging to perpetrators of the genocide. In addition, the play reminds us that some of the victims of rape during the genocide bore children who are also struggling to come to terms with their situations.
Vanessa is consoled by the fact that she doesn’t have to face her challenges alone. She has a bigger family of a unified nation and a broad shoulder to cry on. Didier is determined to create awareness and help those who share his background.
26 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, some factions of ill-intentioned groups are still harboring genocide denial and ideology. The youth on the other hand, are turning to art to combat both vices and help each other to deal with the complex they are innocently shouldering.
Art forms an integral part of of our cultural heritage. It is encouraging to see the youth engineering the resurgence of this effective medium of communication.