Event Title

Reconciling past, future and place: digital stories, dialogue and performance in Montreal’s Rwandan-Canadian community

Start Date

13-1-2012 9:00 AM

End Date

13-1-2012 10:30 AM

Description

Community groups from among Montreal’s Rwandan diaspora have joined with academics as part of the community-university research alliance project entitled Life Stories of Montrealers displaced by war,genocide and other human rights abuses. The Rwandan working group of this 5-year project, based at Montreal's Concordia University and now in its fourth year, seeks to make sense of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis through an examination of individual experiences and the larger historical context including key events leading up to the 100 days of genocide. As part of special programming created for the 2010 genocide commemoration, a series of digital stories excerpted from the project archive was assembled around the momentous periods of 1959, 1973 and 1994. These videos provided the basis for a day-long community conversation. Response was so positive that another intergenerational dialogue day was planned for the April 2011 commemoration. The project's Living Histories Ensemble used playback theatre, a form of improvisational community theatre to help facilitate storytelling and story sharing. Montreal's Rwandan diaspora holds numerous personal stories of survival, of fleeing across international borders, of experiences in refugee camps, and of various forms of discrimination and hardship. Interviewees share difficult stories and tell of their aspirations to make a better life for their children. To date reconciliation has rarely, if ever, been a priority. Often it is viewed as a multiple threat: a threat to identity, a threat to maintaining important memories, and a threat to the notion of loyalty to the departed. Remembering is vital yet memory fades. Time heals, but healing can feel like a transgression. Commemoration is a time each year to gather in solidarity, grieve, and to refresh those memories. What else might be generated during these important times of reflecting together? Could it be that the vital process of watching, speaking, listening to and performing personal stories might afford new opportunities to advance the gradual process of healing and reconciliation? My paper will present a synthesis of issues and reflections on the relationship between conflict, memory and reconciliation drawing from our recent experience of these two important days in the life of our Montreal diasporic community.

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Jan 13th, 9:00 AM Jan 13th, 10:30 AM

Reconciling past, future and place: digital stories, dialogue and performance in Montreal’s Rwandan-Canadian community

Community groups from among Montreal’s Rwandan diaspora have joined with academics as part of the community-university research alliance project entitled Life Stories of Montrealers displaced by war,genocide and other human rights abuses. The Rwandan working group of this 5-year project, based at Montreal's Concordia University and now in its fourth year, seeks to make sense of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis through an examination of individual experiences and the larger historical context including key events leading up to the 100 days of genocide. As part of special programming created for the 2010 genocide commemoration, a series of digital stories excerpted from the project archive was assembled around the momentous periods of 1959, 1973 and 1994. These videos provided the basis for a day-long community conversation. Response was so positive that another intergenerational dialogue day was planned for the April 2011 commemoration. The project's Living Histories Ensemble used playback theatre, a form of improvisational community theatre to help facilitate storytelling and story sharing. Montreal's Rwandan diaspora holds numerous personal stories of survival, of fleeing across international borders, of experiences in refugee camps, and of various forms of discrimination and hardship. Interviewees share difficult stories and tell of their aspirations to make a better life for their children. To date reconciliation has rarely, if ever, been a priority. Often it is viewed as a multiple threat: a threat to identity, a threat to maintaining important memories, and a threat to the notion of loyalty to the departed. Remembering is vital yet memory fades. Time heals, but healing can feel like a transgression. Commemoration is a time each year to gather in solidarity, grieve, and to refresh those memories. What else might be generated during these important times of reflecting together? Could it be that the vital process of watching, speaking, listening to and performing personal stories might afford new opportunities to advance the gradual process of healing and reconciliation? My paper will present a synthesis of issues and reflections on the relationship between conflict, memory and reconciliation drawing from our recent experience of these two important days in the life of our Montreal diasporic community.