A moment to reflect and celebrate my sisters and brothers in Rwanda.
Two years ago today, I was in Kigali's Amahoro Stadium for the twentieth commemoration of the day the killings started there. Around me were international heads of state; in the stands were tens of thousands of survivors of the 1994 genocide that took place in that land.
I had served as the International Creative Director of that commemoration, called Kwibuka (Remember). I posted little about my experience there, both in the interest of discretion, and because sorting through an experience like that one takes a long time. And I came home more than a little traumatized by the brutality of my experience there, which I will write about when I can.
There is not a soul in that country who has not been touched by what happened in Rwanda in 1994 — the systematic murder of a million ethnic Tutsi and Tutsi sympathizers over the course of one hundred days.
People like to speak of the imperative for forgiveness; I speak about the imperative for grief.
Massive loss — of life, of trust — like what occurred in Rwanda slams anything we may know about the process of grieving against a brick wall.
Loss is inevitable. Grief — and traditions designed to ritualize grief — move the immediate pain of loss into the past, give it a story. Story allows us to fold loss into our understanding of what-is, and move on. Without it, we are stuck in the ever-present of that most awful thing that happened.
I believe performance and art can play a role in helping people fold in loss — even horrific loss — by making story, which reaches to make sense of the senseless. We peel our own stories wide open, make them porous, so our meanings can be shared by an entire community or audience.
In the stadium, one year ago, on the soccer pitch below the stands where I sat, I observed a nearly literal recreation of the genocide: Six hundred actors ran for their lives; six hundred fell dead, as tens of thousands of survivors in the stands shrieked in terror. their worst memories brought to life before them.
And then the actors representing the President and his army came in and brought the dead back to life.
I had nothing to do with what was presented that day. It was in stark opposition to anything I had proposed for that moment.