Help fund a show about an inspiring experience in Rwanda

By Ignace Fabiani

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Your support will help me finish to create a show inspired by my experience in Rwanda, where I went in 2006 and 2009 to work with children living in the streets.

What kind of show ?

The title of the show will be :

"Facing the hills of Rwanda"


A storytelling performance that takes us on a journey to discover the remarkable country of Rwanda. The storyteller's voice blends with the sounds and songs recorded directly in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

A heartfelt, funny and sometimes dramatic show, inspired by a true story.

Public: Adults & Ages 12+
Timing: 60 minutes

Written and interpreted by: Ignace Fabiani
Directed by: Juan Antonio Martinez y Carrion

The story:

Joseph, a 24-year-old French, goes to Kigali for 6 months to work with young people living on the streets. As the show progresses, a multitude of engaging characters come to color the narrative: an energetic rapper who learned English by watching Bollywood movies, an educator always full of hope and projects who survived the genocide, a proverb-loving night watchman who never leaves his classy jacket and toreador mustache, an orphan girl who now pilots a drone...

Thanks to these endearing characters whom Joseph wants to know, to understand... we discover sensitively little bits of Rwanda's history.

Staging:

Simple and unadorned, the staging brings us to the borderline between storytelling and reading. Standing in front of the audience, the actor-storyteller, alone on stage, tells us this singular story and takes us on a journey to Rwanda. His words are accompanied by the sound ambiences recorded in Kigali and songs that punctuate the show.

Today I am looking for financial support to translate this show in English in order to be able to share it all over the world to english speaking audiences !

Spectators words:

“More ecological and cheaper than a plane, this sure takes us to Rwanda!” Alison

"A show that blends individual stories and History in all simplicity and authenticity. " Loic

"A gripping, immersive, documented, devastated and luminous story that transports us into the contours and limits of our history. Let the ears open to the conscience! " Marien

"The connexion between text and sound is excellent! "Yvonne

"I like the simplicity with which you draw and paint the scenery of Rwanda. I was there with you. Should be prescribed to candidates who want to work in an NGO!" Raph

"This tale makes us discover a country we can't forget! Your words make the atmosphere and questions of this emerging country palpable. It makes me want to learn from Rwandans! "Françoise

Who am I ?

Born in 1983, I lived in the USA and France.


I studied in a french university mixing business, developmental issues, and work with NGOs.


In 2006, I went to Rwanda to do my end of school internship in a center that welcomed young people living on the streets of Kigali. A very enriching, demanding and exciting experience where I discovered the daily ingenuity of these youngsters.


Once back in France, I sought to better understand the history of Rwanda, with : books, films, meetings with sociologists, historians, humanitarians, soldiers, ... - while seeking what universal message it had to tell us.

In parallel, since 2011, I began working as a comedian in the French theater company Artiflette. I created the show "Le chant des radiateurs", a voice and cello duet created from a book by contemporary poet Christian Bobin. This intimate performance speaks of everyday life, of death, of our ways of resisting; in a waltz where the words dance with the music...


This show has been played over a 100 times in various places: festivals of Avignon and Aurillac, theaters, libraries, Quebec, ...


Extracts of the Guestbook:

"Time is suddenly suspended. With every word, each one of us can identify with our strength and our fragility.” Françoise

"Thanks for the lively company of your words and the chello. And for the smiles that you made flourish on the listeners lips. "Christian Bobin


At the same time, I continued working on the theme of Rwanda: organization of a film festival "Contrasts of Rwanda" in Lyon, conferences, interventions in secondary schools,...

Nurtured by these different experiences, I began in 2016 writing the play inspired by my personal history in Rwanda: "The thousand and one hills ; A young Frenchman discovers Rwanda

Contact me to talk about the project !

If you want to talk with me about this project or if you have ideas of places to host this show, please contact me : [email protected] +33 6 28 35 81 59.

Extract from the show

To help you feel the way I want to tell this story, I've translated - maybe a bit awkwardly – one of the texts that I have written to prepare the show.

A vigil at the Memorial of Nyanza in Rwanda, with Innocent and Snoop


Inspired by a true story.

Written by Ignace Fabiani, June 16, 2017


Saturday, April 11th, 2009.


I arrived in Rwanda three months ago. I'm here to work in the Inzu Center in Kigali. They welcome young people who lived on the streets. Some of them now live inside the center, others just come for a meal, to attend vocational training or to meet up with friends.

In fact my "work" here, is mainly trying to share the daily life of these kids : cooking, playing soccer, fetching water in big yellow cans, exchanging French – Kinyarwanda classes, visiting their families...


Currently, I live in the center with 12 young people aged 10 to 17. Little by little, they've become friends.


Today, it's been 6 days since we entered the "national commemoration" week of the Tutsi genocide.
A somewhat agonizing calm has seized the country. The city is idling. The voices are low. The looks discreet. Public events are prohibited or discouraged. No soccer games. No concerts. No festive evenings.
At the beginning of the week, Innocent, one of the young people who lives with me in the center, said "During the mourning period, it's better to avoid laughing in the street. Or even talking too loud”. Last night, I met a well-to-do Rwandan couple in a downtown bar. Around a Mutzig beer, the husband told me: "Usually we avoid staying in Kigali during this week. It's too depressing. We prefer going to Bujumbura, where life goes on”. His wife added, "The government shouldn't dictate how we mourn. Recollection can not be decreed, only lived. For me, here it sounds a bit false, forced. "

During this week, the Rwandan national television - a single channel - only screens documentaries and films related to the genocide. This adds to the strange atmosphere.


This Saturday afternoon, we're looking at the documentary “Tuez-les-tous” (Kill them all). We're about ten, sitting on wooden benches in the little TV room of the Inzu Center. The TV keeps sizzling and Snoop, one of the youngsters, rises regularly to hit it on the side. Outside, the weather is stormy, clammy, but no rain is coming. My clothes are moist and stick to the skin.
On screen, we discover three young Frenchmen who go to Rwanda in 2004 to try to understand what happened during the genocide. They were fifteen at the time. When they discovered the scale of the tragedy, they wanted to understand why and how more than one million people had been massacred in three months. Simply because they were born Tutsis or because they wanted to oppose the massacres. For two years, they conducted a real investigation.
The documentary is well done. Pedagogic. I'm taken by the story. The part about France, confirms what all Rwandans have been telling me since my arrival: some members of the French government and army supported the people committing the genocide. I feel dizzy... Seeing all the facts put together is unbearable. I'm ashamed of the actions of my country. I look discreetly at the young people around me. What do they think of the presence of a Frenchman among them today? But they don't even seem to really notice me. They must be caught up in their own thoughts, their own memories. Some are constantly getting up, moving around in circles. In and out of the room. It feels like they want to see, without seeing. I wonder what they really know about the history of their country? Who tells them? And what version? And what do I really know about it?


Caught up in
the everyday life with these kids, I sometimes forget the heavy and traumatic past that every Rwandan carries within him. Looking at the faces of my neighbors, Innocent, Snoop, Marie-Ange, ... I try to imagine the storm that's stirring inside them. Tears run down my cheeks.
I
need to leave this stuffy room to go breathe outside. I sit on a bench, facing the hills. Below me, on the basketball court, two children are playing soccer with a ball made of plastic bags. Behind them, the corn and beans planted by the youngsters are beginning to flourish.


After
10 minutes, Innocent joins me on the bench. Among the inhabitants of the center, at 17, he's the one who speaks the best French. At the same time reserved and enthusiastic, he's become my appointed guide. Medium-sized, with his head shaved, he's always wearing brown shorts with yellow crocs. In June, he'll complete his final year of primary school. His father, brothers and sisters died during the genocide when he was only 2 years old. But when he talks about them, he prefers to say that they live in the United States. At the age of 10, he left his mother and his village to come to Kigali. Looking for work, looking for a life. After 4 years living on the streets, he landed here, and managed to get back on his way to school. When he speaks French he's a little shy and hesitant. But when he speaks Kinyarwanda, he's almost authoritarian. With the young people who live in the center, he's clearly the boss.


Now he
's sitting silently beside me. His gaze fixed on the horizon as he takes my hand. We stay like that for a while, before he says softly, "Joseph, I'd like to go with you to the commemoration tonight at the Nyanza cemetery..."
Our eyes
meet. I'm touched by his request. By his friendship. I accept.
This is an opportunity to d
ive a little deeper into this country's history.


An hour later, we set off on the dusty track that descends to the south of Kigali.
Another young man accompa
nies us. Everyone calls him Snoop. He must be about 15 years old and always dresses like the rapper to whom he owes his nickname. Cap or bandana on his head, ostentatious finger rings and basketball jerseys too wide on his body. He speaks bad French, preferring the English of his idol. The other day he told me how he learned Shakespeare's language. Since he was a boy, he's been going to watch Bollywood movies in a little “shed cinema”. These are screened in Hindi, subtitled in English, and there's a guy next to the TV, translating in Kinyarwanda. One day, Snoop started coming to these sessions with a notebook, copying the words on the screen and linking them with the words of the translator... Wow, what a story! I haven't seen him for the last two weeks. His parents have just been imprisoned in the central jail of Kigali. They were convicted by a Gacaca court for their involvement in the genocide. Snoop suddenly finds himself having to look after his six little brothers and sisters.


Now, here we are, all three on the road to Nyanza.

The night has just fallen and we're not the only ones walking in this direction. Some are alone, others in groups. Silent or whispering. The atmosphere is already towards mourning. On the side of the road we crosse wooden stalls,with little vendors, tailors, hairdressers,...

After a while, Snoop spontaneously begins to tell me in English, the story of the Nyanza cemetery. "You know, before it was not a cemetery, nor a memorial. It was a dump. Many street children came there to live or to look for things to resell ... Then in 1994, it was human waste that was thrown there...
In fact, at the beginning of the killings, many people took refuge at the Official Technical School which is right next to the Inzu Center. You know, the one where we
go train on Wednesday evenings. At the time, it was UN Belgian soldiers who occupied the school. So people thought they'd be safe there. One of my uncles, who was a Tutsi, tried to take shelter there as soon as the genocide started. Shortly after, the school was surrounded by the militia Interhamwe. My uncle told me that they kept taunting them, saying that they would kill them soon ... They were armed with machetes, axes and clubs ...
My uncle
said that one evening when the militia became too threatening, he even asked a Belgian soldier to shoot in their direction, to scare them, to make them back off. But the soldier replied: "We don't have the right to use our weapons except to defend ourselves. It is not in our mandate ... ". The next day he saw this same soldier shooting at dogs who were eating a corpse ... My uncle asked him, "Are you sure it's in your mandate to shoot the dogs?"
After a few days, the Belgian
soldiers suddenly decided to abandon the school, although the refugees begged them to stay. As the Belgians were leaving with their jeeps, the militiamen were entering with their machetes ... The people who were not killed in the school were brought in a convoy to this dump. Nyanza. Then massacred and thrown into pits ... It was also a 11th of April, 15 years ago ...
My uncle managed to escape only because my father
was close to some of the militia. Today they don't speak to each other anymore ... "

Snoop's voice dries up and the journey ends in silence...


After a little more than 30 minutes of walking, we see a forest of small candles on our left. The memorial is set on the slopes of a hill. We enter the site, through a large metallic gate. In the darkness I can see a huge sign on the arcade: "Nyanza - Kicukiro. Urwibutso Rwa Jenoside Yakorewe Abatutsi ". Memorial for the Tutsi genocide. Inside there are lots of people. Gathered in small groups between the white wooden crosses stretching ghostly on the lawn. The smell of wet earth mingles with that of incense and candles.
I follow Snoop and Innocent to one side of the cemetery. An old sono is broadcasting lyrics in Kinyarwanda. Alternating songs, laments, testimonies and speeches. In the dark, I hardly distinguish the faces around me. I feel like I'm one of the only white person. What the hell am I doing here? Am I in my place?


The harmony is suddenly broken by a cry right next to me. I turn around and discover a young woman with her arms milling about in all directions. She screams louder and louder. Looks like she's in a trance. Her neighbors try to calm her down, while a Red Cross group approaches with a big flashlight and then take the woman in charge.
Innocent whispers : "Sometimes when the survivors come back here, they relive the genocide."
Impressed, I crosse my arms on my chest, and rub my forearms.
At the microphone testimonies and memories succeed one another. "Kwibuka - Remember" comes back like a mantra. I don't understand the words, but I feel the intensity. I have goosebumps.
I'm plunged 15 years back. I imagine this same place with what Snoop described to me ... Men, women and children, massacred for the simple fact of being born Tutsi.
I'm drawn out of my reflections by the pressure of Innocent on my hand. He shows me a woman talking on the microphone. "She's the mayor of Kigali."
We stay about ten more minutes, before we start heading back to the center, taking advantage that the rain is still not falling.
The thirty minute walk goes by in silence, each one of us in our own thoughts ...

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