Performance art as a tool for ‘Building Peace’

Youth, as dynamic members of society, are interested in discovering new ideas and expressive approaches in their routine work. Considering youth as today´s and future peace actors in our society, Never Again Rwanda (NAR) as an organization that rose in the aftermath of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, has been organizing conferences, debates, participatory theater, workshops and arts competitions to engage young people in expressing their concerns and any psychological wounds from their past, to learn about their past, and empower them with critical thinking capacity to analyze roots causes of the conflicts and deconstruct any possible negative stereotypes in their communities.

Starting this year, Never Again Rwanda, within its societal healing axis, has made a specific focus on youth artistic productions by organizing a competition of songs, drawings as well as poetry under the theme: Youth Building Peace: “The role of youth in building a peaceful community”. Since the launch of this arts competition, NAR had received 193 applications from individuals and groups both schooling and non-schooling, located in 10 districts of NAR´s operation. These include: Nyarugenge, Kicukiro, Gasabo, Nyagatare, Rwamagana, Bugesera, Kayonza, Musanze, Gicumbi, Huye, Gisagara, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Rubavu and Ngororero District. At the start of February 2018, NAR will select 3 winners per province among those who applied to compete at the National level. This time, the 3 best arts productions in each of those categories will be awarded for their performances as well as inspiring art work. Besides these awards, NAR is expecting to promote the talented young people through different media platforms.

When reading this article, you may ask yourself what kind of impact as expected from this particular activity? Maybe you are wondering what it will contribute to the process of transforming Rwandan society into a healed and peaceful society? Well, as the famous artist Michelangelo said, “An artist must have his measuring tools not in the hand, but in the eye”. This art component will also facilitate youth to visualize what is in their minds, informing our society about youth issues and solutions toward peace as well as enabling intellectual exchanges among young members of our society.

By organizing this competition, NAR also expects to be a platform where youth of diverse backgrounds can share their personal stories in artistic ways which would not only promote tolerance of diverse opinions and empathy, but also trust among the members of our society. One cannot doubt how this expressive approach will also contribute to our societal healing and social cohesion by allowing young people to express themselves. Some of their past experiences reflected within their work may also inspire those who will listen to their songs, read their poems and see their drawings. This will act as a tool for them to express themselves but also, on the other hand, it will act as a tool of inspiration by young people, thereby pushing the society of Banyarwanda toward a sustainable, developed and peaceful society.

Omar Ndizeye is a Program Office at Never Again Rwanda