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Students come together to remember Rwandan genocide after 20 years

Films spotlight LC Student Didacienne Nibagwire 

By Drake MacFarlane /// Backdoor Editor

Last week, Lewis & Clark commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, which claimed the lives of one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994, with a film viewing and discussion.

On April 16, LC hosted a double feature of two Rwandan films, “Behind the Word” and “Finding Hillywood,” in Council Chambers. The first, “Behind the Word,” was a film about the struggles that students from villages face in high schools taught in foreign languages. The film also dealt with authority and sexual assault. The lead actress was an LC student, Didacienne Nibagwire.

Nibagwire is the ninth recipient of the General Romeo Dallaire scholarship, which supports youth human rights activists from sub-saharan Africa. The scholarship was created after a Lewis & Clark student went to Rwanda and met some of the people featured in “Finding Hillywood.”

“Behind the Word” was entered into a German film contest by one of Nibagwire’s friends. When it won the competition, Nibagwire’s friend urged her to join the production.

“She called me and said, ‘Dida, you’re my main actress,’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t do movies!’ She was like, ‘when I wrote it I was thinking about you, you have to do it.’ That’s how I did it,” Nibagwire said.

The second film, “Finding Hillywood,” is about Rwanda’s burgeoning film industry. It chronicles the tale of a man’s recovery after the loss of his family in the genocide.The film highlights his personal growth and his commitment to creating films. He is a part of the Hillywood production company, composed of Rwandans who make films and show them across the hilly countryside of Rwanda, hence the name “Hillywood.”

“It’s about cinema in Rwanda, and how people use art to give a message to people who don’t have access,” Nibagwire said, “That’s what is done in ‘Finding Hillywood’ or ‘Behind the Word’. Even here, it’s just to show people, that these issues happen, not only in Rwanda. To make people aware of certain issues, this is a way.”

After leaving LC, Nibagwire plans to make a difference like those in “Finding Hillywood,” through the creation of her own theatre company. She said, “For me, I use theatre as a way to talk about social issues.”

Drake MacFarlane is the Backdoor editor of the Pioneer Log.  As you can imagine, he blogs too much and used to make YouTube videos, but you’d never get him to admit it. Follow him on Twitter @drakemacfarlane


LC invites artists to social justice panel

By Sarah Schaff /// Staff Writer

As I walked into the discussion panel for the Rwandan Genocide Commemoration, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen posters around campus, but failed to scrutinize them. So when my friend asked me to accompany her to the event, I did so without preconceived notions, or even a clear understanding of what I was in for.

The panelists, Naomi Benaron (author, “Running the Rift”), Leah Warshawski (filmmaker, “Finding Hillywood”) and Didacienne Nibagwire (actress, “Behind the Word”) are present-day artists very much interested in and inspired by social justice and activism. For about an hour, I listened to all three of them answer questions about what it meant to be an activist and an artist in their particular field, what sparked their interest in art and what suggestions they had for aspiring artists and social activists.

Warshawski and Benaron both admitted that they had not initially been interested in their current genres of work. Warshawski,  said that she was “not on the path to be a filmmaker…it happened in an interesting way…and here I am…I have had to do a lot of things I don’t care about in that way, and that’s how I sustained myself”. Benaron had a similar story, asserting that she “decided to be a writer somewhat late in life…[and] was a scientist for a long time.”

As someone who bore witness firsthand to episodes of violence in Rwanda, Nibagwire found strength and solace through acting and theater. She travels the world and speaks out so that the world does not forget the atrocities which occurred in Rwanda twenty years ago. However, she also states that she wants Rwanda to exist in the minds of others not as a place of darkness, but as one of a growing peace. She does not see what happened in Rwanda as an isolated incident,  but rather believes that what happened in Rwanda could happen anywhere in the world if anger, fear and ignorance are allowed to grow unchecked.

She stated that she “hoped [her stories] would inspire and educate people outside Rwanda about something inspiring happening that they may not have known was going on…we [want] to change perceptions.” When asked what advice she had to give to students in the audience interested in enacting social change through art, Nibagwire had this to say: “The first thing is just being aware and being concerned about people’s issues. Once you really feel the problem that your neighbor has, then you can start to make a solution.”

“The first thing is just being aware and being concerned about people’s issues. Once you really feel the problem that your neighbor has, then you can start to make a solution.” 

All three panelists reiterated that positive change on a global level was not a phenomenon of an individual, but of many individuals coming together out of a love of peace, and a desire to change things for the better. In Warshawski’s words, “it’s very rare for an individual to change the entire world.”

Although she initially dreamt of playing the hero(ine), Warshawski says that since then she has “started to be okay with just changing little bits…whether it’s just taking time to focus on a conversation…there’s so much going on now, that it’s important that we’re all interconnected…just sitting down and listening to someone’s story I think makes a really big difference. With a little more focus we could collectively change quite a bit.” We’re all familiar with the phrase “Think globally, act locally” (a mandatory bumper sticker for Prius owners).

It makes sense–local problems and the situations closest to home are those that an individual would be most inclined to care about, and not only that, but to feel that care at a deeply personal level, not solely an intellectualized one. That is the passion that inspires change and inspires other people.



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