"The theatre show The Monument lasts for only 70 minutes, but after it has ended some spectators are so emotional that they stay after the show to discuss it for up to three hours," says Jennifer Capraru, the Canadian director of the play that is being performed in Rwanda.
The storyline of The Monument is quite a harsh one. A widow is looking for the man who raped and murdered her daughter during the 1994 genocide. Her quest leads to painful confrontations with the ghosts of the past, sometimes literally. Over 800.000 people lost their lives during the genocide that started in April 1994.
"I really think the people of Rwanda need theatre," says Capraru. She first came to the country as part of the crew that shot the film Shake hands with the devil, about the genocide. Rwandan colleagues asked her to return to the country. "The monument premiered last year, after which we performed the show throughout Rwanda. The script was written by Canadian Colleen Wagner, and could be performed depicting any genocide of the world. However, some Rwandans thought the script came so close to the Rwandan reality that they refused to believe it was written by a foreigner."
The play, co-funded by the Dutch embassy in Kigali and the Canadian Art Foundation, helps generate forgiveness, thinks Capraru. Her theatre group Isôko is nowadays registered as a Non-Governmental organization, and are now working on a second production, Tideline by Wajdi Mouawad. "As an artist, I feel welcomed in Rwanda," says Capraru. The country is now led by Paul Kagame, the tough ex-rebel leader who stopped the genocide in 1994. "Maybe artists are welcomed in his country because the president's wife used to be an actress. In the high days of her career in theatre in Bujamburara, she had a leading theatre role as a queen. But now is really is the queen."
The Monument was co-funded by the Dutch Embassy in Kigali and the Canadian Art Foundation.