CONTEMPORARY ART OF RWANDA
to the rest of the world
The following pages invite you to explore the works of fellow artists I have had the pleasure to view and discuss their work with in Rwanda
In 1994 the small, East African country of Rwanda experienced one of the worst genocides in global history. Belgium colonisation in the 1930's enforced identity cards that created division between local tribes, the Hutu's, Tutsi's and Hwa's, that had always lived cooperatively side by side. With this came growing tensions and divisions between ethnic tribes and many killings prior to the mass genocide of 1994.
On April 6th 1994, the presidents jet was shot down and this instigated the start of the genocide that saw Hutu people killing their Tutsi neighbours across Rwanda in an attempt to 'eradicate the cockroaches'.
Little was done internationally to stop the genocide until it was too late. By classing it as a civil war the UN were only able to provide aid and not use any military forced unless under threat. Following the killing of 12 Belgium UN officials aid and support was removed. By resisting the classification of a genocide delayed intervention and in just a few weeks millions were butchered and killed at the hands of neighbours machetes usually used to work the farms.
For a full history go to http://kwibuka.rw/?page_id=170
In 1997 I touched Rwanda tentatively as I visited the gorillas. We were under curfew and had to stay In a missionary for the week.
In 2017 I chose to return to see what was happening now in Rwanda. As a Psychologist I was fascinated to know how a country as a whole could not just recover but to flourish from such atrocities. I hoped to learn from the country as well as find ways to help. In doing so I healed a few of my own wounds.
Whilst my travels to Rwanda in 2017 was aimed towards supporting the country in their psychological recovery it became quickly apparent that a new wave of creativity was running through the country as a way of healing.
As usual I visited local galleries and also saw the gallery of art created by the ex-street boys at Les Enfants Des Dieu. Here I saw an energy, vibrancy and experimentation of medias that match anything being created in the Western world of art today. Whilst cultural roots remained they were not your typical traditional 'african art' that could be bought in any craft market. This was something contemporary and refreshing.
I left feeling I had to do something to make the world aware of what beauty and skill was emerging from a country that had been through such a horrific past.
Black Earth Rising - BBC2 drama series
Even now when I say I am visiting Rwanda there is a huge worry comes over peoples faces asking if it is safe to do so. But I soon found from my first visit that Rwanda is now one of the healthiest, cleanest and safest countries in the world, not just Africa.
President Kagame's government has enforced many regulations that has created a country that is now quietly and humbly building a country in their own way and in which overcomes many issues we are faced with in modern society. They are are country to admire and learn from.
These include banning plastic bags, creating noise curfews, enforcing strong penalties for littering and on one Saturday a month no cars are allowed to drive and everybody must join in with local exercises and help clean up the city. As you travel through Kigali there are always people working at keeping the roads and streets clean and tidy. The city is separated out so all big industry is on one hill outside of the city. New housing has to conform to regulatory designs so each new estate aesthetically matches. There are government l schemes to allow people to build their own homes instead of wait until they can afford it.
There is much modern architecture growing high into the skies of the Kigali city which is attracting more and more businesses to the country, recognising it as a strong conference home.
For more information, stories, reflections and images of living in Rwanda today please visit my blog page.
Now the country is financially and physically stable there is a recognition for a more psychological response to the genocide. In particular the recognition that trauma is now being inherited into the next generation. Psychology and Counselling is now being taught in schools and organisations and there are many psycho-social programmes encouraging reconciliation and forgiveness between victims and perpetrators of the genocide. There is a strong emphasis on reconciliation rather than revenge and this is something I was very curious to understand, how this was possible.
Each year in April the country have a commemorative programme that see's everybody stop work early each day and come to together to talk, discuss and plan for their futures that won't allow genocide to occur again. It is a time for all people to reflect on their story in order to help them move forward. I was initially sceptical about how to keep bringing the genocide back up would enable a country to move forward. But I have learnt that each year it creates more healing for some only now ready to address their trauma. it helps keep it alive for the new generation so they are aware of the lessons learnt and what they need to avoid creating themselves. It seems to create a community and cooperation that we lack in Western Society.