Art n’ such

March 17, 2011

For starters, the variations of fried dough here are delicious (in this case, chapatti).

Yesterday we watched the movie Sometimes in April, which chronicles a fictional storyline of a family during the 1994 genocide. One of the main actresses from the movie, Carole Karemera, met with us today at a cultural center (basically an auditorium with a stage) and rattled on awesomely about art in Rwanda for an hour and half. Some main points I remember were:

-Rwanda has a short history with certain kinds of art, particularly theater. She said that taking that into consideration, theater people can do anything they want without worrying about any kind of tradition, which is both freeing and burdening. It’s interesting to me comparing European history and culture, which I’ve been used to mostly, to modern Rwandan culture which is almost America-ish in some ways. I see a lot of my culture at home as a blank slate influenced mostly by things that are happening in the present rather than traditions in the past. Obviously Rwanda has a lot more deep-set extended family ties, but they seem to be mostly a blank slate for culture as well, like anything that the people can think up now will be what the culture is.

-Another one: Art as action and interaction. Mostly you think of people on stage as “acting” out a story, they’re not really themselves, but everyone in the world is acting in the literal sense of the word all the time. Carole talked about a group of women who got to release tension and emotion through acting out a play about rape, rather than admitting straight out that they were rape victims – essentially “acting out” (like a toddler would act out) but even playing a character contributed to reaching a point of catharsis for them. She also spoke about art as an alibi, to essentially have a cover of playing something else or representing something, but ultimately it is you communicating to other people. Her saying that gave me sort of a performance itch, since I think that’s what I love about performing – the feeling of communicating a certain type of feeling via some other medium, whether it’s music or words that have already been written, and having that feeling bubble out of you in the form of a scream or facial expression or sigh. And if anybody needs catharsis, it’s genocide survivors, good god.

Where was I! Kigali, Rwanda. I’ll toss out a gigantic blanket statement and say that studying abroad is hard and this program particularly makes me think about terribly difficult things, but overall such things needed to happen, my brain was going a little numb before.

This past week has just been visiting NGOs and an art gallery, and other such things. The guy who owns the art gallery/painted the art will have an opening at the Hotel des Mille Collines, the big main swanky main hotel of Rwanda. We may go there and then hit up a bar with the other expats of Rwanda for St. Patrick’s Day, as both are tomorrow. I realized that last St. Patrick’s I was in a bar in Trinidad, and will now be in a Rwandan one. Hoping to keep up this tradition of partying in foreign countries whose people could care less about such holidays. Also, ah, classmate Liz and I made a visit to Gisenyi in the west right on the shores of Lake Kivu/the border with the Congo. The lake had massively awesome mountains the background and the sunset was appropriately also awesome. Liz had a connection to a Rwandan guy who works for the American Red Cross and was in charge of this Barefoot Artists Village, which was basically a normal village but emphasized art for kids and their concrete buildings had pretty things painted all over. We also visited people who sew, make pottery, etc. and they were all like yeah everything’s cool, nta kibazo (no problem , nahchibahzo), whatevs. So, point of story, they probably didn’t have toilet paper and cold milk but it’s all good. It makes me think about “development” and what it means in our Western heads but that’s another blog.

So we finish up this week and then leave for our two-week trip to Uganda! We’ll be in Gulu first, in the north, massively close to what is now/will be soon South Sudan I’m thinking. The world is big! But also small.

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