For the past three years, faculty and students in the M.A. in Applied Theatre program at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies have traveled to Rwanda to implement the project “Drama and Theatre Education in Schools for Reconciliation and Development in Rwanda.” The twin goals of Project Rwanda are: to develop the use of theatre and drama strategies as educational tools to help promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans, and to create job opportunities by building applied theatre troops; first in schools and colleges, and later in the professional, cultural milieu. SPS participants blog about their experiences to share with us back home. Below are the reflections from one student about her time in Africa:
By Amy Sawyers
I echo Joey’s sentiment, and find myself back in New York City, missing Rwanda, and wondering how to apply what I’ve learned to my life back in the states. I sat in Fort Green Park this morning, processing my emotions and memories. I expressed them through a poem that I’d like to share. While our trip may be over, it is only the beginning of a new chapter in our lives: Shamilia, Ramy, Bennett, Joey, Rachel, Kristy, Micheal, Claro, and myself. This chapter will contain the spirit of praxis, in which we reflect on what we’ve experienced in Rwanda, and then apply that to our future work. I miss you Rwanda, and I hope to visit you again one day.
“Letter to Myself: How You Encountered Rwanda”
It is said that God spends the day elsewhere to work, in the night, he rests in Rwanda -Proverb
Through a sliding van window as you spiral down a mountain, you see the clouds whispering to the hills, close, like two elders telling secrets. Let the incense scented air intoxicate your senses, and lean in to listen closely. Through the wind, you will hear years of stories–
Tales of old peacetime- when kingdoms ruled over a country united, when beer flowed and sacred cows chewed rain soaked grass–
Tales of the colonialists who helped spark the great darkness of a rainy season in 1994, when the sky could not stop weeping for its children… When the cries of the people were not enough, and the whole world turned around and shut its eyes.
But now, wait, you hear the clouds whisper words like: reconciliation, recovery, challenge, peace–
Like the turtles we saw, gently singing, crawling slow as patience, in the student’s folk tale play they performed for you.
Did you realize that a place like Rwanda would change your perspective, your life?–
Teach you how to love more openly, to see the power of applied theatre more clearly, and to mourn for a people’s history more deeply?
And when you returned to New York City with its smorgasbord flavor and frenzied buzz, charged like a lightning bolt–
Did you know that every time you saw a stranger, you’d want to say Amakuru–
That you would be followed by the memories of the smiles of the students and people of Kigali, Byumba, Kibuye, Nyanza–
That you would sing Wiriwa and Simbuka out loud as you walk the streets?
Rwanda is like dancing with hundreds of children,
It’s like the big breath of transition after you’ve had a huge cry,
Or like your heart overflowing with love in a way you never thought possible.
It is there, waiting for you to return like a mother with open arms.