Driving 2 hours south of Kigali to the lush, green city of Butare you can see the country rebuilding at every turn. Deep in the rolling hills and thick cover of pines trees was Save village in the Huye district where we went to witness a comprehensive reconciliation project.
After the genocide, Rwanda’s prisons were overcrowded and the cases were far too many for the court system to handle. Stemming from ancient customs of problem solving, the Gacaca trial process was established after the genocide to try thousands of accused in the country through the use of village run trials. Gacaca judges were chosen by the villagers based on their honesty and integrity.
This complex process was not perfect but helped to resolve many cases, but true reconciliation did not come from the sentences, but from “real”, heartfelt confessions. Perpetrators confessed to survivors and survivor families decided if they felt the apologies were sincere and from the heart in front of Gacaca judges, who would then pass down sentences of prison or community service.
In this village we met some Gacaca judges who were responsible for many cases as well as ex-combatants, former prisoners and survivors. They all held the common belief that if they could not reconcile what had happened with themselves, they could not reconcile with each other. Since Hutu and Tutsi shared community, neighborhoods and families, they had to learn to forgive and live together as Rwandans.
After an in depth discussion with many questions, we lightened the mood with some time with the kids (who doesn’t love painting ap on the ipad?), and a stop for ice cream ….(may I take a moment to thank god for ice cream? It can really lift the spirt!) at a little shop opened by a group of female Rwandan drummers. Then we stopped at Rwanda’s national Museum for a bit of ancient Rwandan history.
Although this was a few days ago, I wanted to lighten up the post to share info about this fabulous Rwandan artist Cory and I had visited. The wonderful art studio of Emmanuel Knuranga boasts many paintings where african fabrics and influences are woven throughout mixed medium, vibrant and textural work.
Emmanuel’s complex and exuberant palette is eye candy as soon as you walk into his studio courtyard. It was a treat to meet Emmanuel and watch some of the artists at work. It has me longing to get back to the art studio….
Maybe even throw some of my empty cans onto the wall and see where they land!
A crazy note…Emmanuel had just exhibited in at the Southport Gallery in Southport, Ct ten minutes from my house…..but I had to come all the way to Rwanda to see him!