Perhaps to tell this story I must assume the role of the voiceless, to properly give an account of this story I must redirect the focus on those who no longer have the privilege to tell their own story. The inspiration for this story, and for my thesis, was the neglected voices of the past that can no longer speak for themselves and tell their truth about what really happened that night of April 7, 1994 in Rwanda. This story is not singular nor is it new, it has been told countless times from various perspectives and context. The story has already been told from a historical perspective, we know the approximate number of the Tutsi and Hutu victims, the number of women and children that were raped, the number of the countless displaced people, the context that slowly created the genocide, etc. In other words what we think to know is the factual aspect of the story. However, even that story is not truthfully or completely told. It constitutes a perspective – a fraction – of what ensued that one evening in April 1994, just like the media coverage or reportage of what happened during (and after) the event. Most of us, if we are familiar with this story, have seen the graphic pictures and recordings of what appears to be ordinary people going to war against their neighbors. The story I want to tell is one detached from these notions that often have a derogative connotation.
Why is this story from this perspective necessary, you may ask? Afterall it is but another perspective of a story already told, but it is here that the voiceless become too loud to ignore. Who were those people that from one instance to another ceased to exist? What are their personal stories and how does it tie in with the overall story of the Rwandan genocide? The story that I am trying to tell is a new poetics of learning about the past, a new manner to write and talk about a specific event. One not oversaturated with historical facts and precision but one that lets the audience become part of creating and more specifically remembering that (hi)story. It is a story that incorporates multiple voices of both survivors and executioners to narrate the overall story of the genocide, without creating tension between the individual and the narratives. Instead, it seeks to narrate this history in such a way that it does not become yet another case study of some barbaric event somewhere in the heart of Africa. I am trying to tell this story beyond the westernised and homogenous idea of African countries. I want to tell the story of a country’s history that could have been any other country on the world, and why it ultimately was not. This story might not be real, in the true essence of the word, but it is truthfully
The medium, or rather I say, the inspiration for this storytelling is completely derived from the analysis of three novels on the Rwandan genocide with one being a graphic novel. The authors’ narrative choice, to their personal journalistic research up to their linguistic devices all play a key role in how this story is told. All three novels choose to tell the story in a similar yet unique way, which will allow for me to investigate the various ways by which this story can be told. How have they chosen to write about the unspeakable through avoidance, and imagery? In this story subtle every day mundane tasks become too ordinary for a place like Rwandan that has seen and survived so many horrific nights. How do people still go to church although it was a complicit site of crime during the genocide? This story allows us to make sense of the most senseless crimes experienced in our shared human history and to understand its nuances as difficult as they might be.