NEVER AGAIN RWANDA – Youth Theatre Festival
From March 25 to April 5, twelve youth from Never Again Rwanda (NAR) came together to create
their first ever theatre festival. Under the guidance of a Ugandan director, they spent the first week
collectively creating a play around the theme of reconciliation, and then spent the last few days touring the
play to three different provinces in Rwanda.
The play the youth created was called “The Question Mark” and was based on one of the oldest
stories in the book – star crossed lovers and unrequited love! A survivor of the genocide falls in love with
the nephew of a perpetrator, and amidst a back story of the accelerating economic development in
Rwanda, this interactive piece of theatre engaged audiences into reflecting upon the ‘smaller’ realities that
still continue to haunt the nation today. Thirteen years later, Kigali might be one of the fastest growing
capitals in the world and yet, when it comes to love stories like this one, it is difficult for families to not
revert to historically biased opinions and perceptions. During one scene in the thirty minute long play; the
narrator comes onto stage playing the ngoma (traditional drum). He puts the drum between the starcrossed
lovers, picks up a cloth that has a huge question mark drawn on it, ties the cloth onto the ngoma
and walks away. The image we are left with as he exits is that of the two lovers sitting back to back on the
ground, with the question mark between them. A question to all of Rwanda: What do they do?
This scene became the starting point for discussion with the audiences. In Butare, Gisenyi and
Kigali towns of Rwanda, the almost 100 person strong audience in each location was encouraged to enter
into discussion with the actors and the characters that they were playing. The discussions ranged from
advise to the lovers, to suggestions to the actors, to general comments about the situation in Rwanda. It
was an opportunity for the actors to see the effects of the work and also, a chance for the audiences to
break the fourth wall and to implicate themselves within the situation that they were witnessing on stage.
Seeing the impact that the process held for both actors and audiences alike, we have renewed our
efforts to use theatre within NAR's wider aims of conflict resolution and peace building. We hope that is
the first festival of many more to come!
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