Society 21 August 2017 8 1697
In 1994, about one million people were killed in Rwanda in just 100 days. Two decades on, a classical ballet school for young girls in the Rwandan city of Kigali has come to symbolise just how far the country has come in recovering from the trauma inflicted by the inter-tribal conflict.
Children from the Hutu and Tutsi tribes were once seated on opposite sides of the classroom in Rwanda and taught that they were different, even in appearance. Tribal differences were also often emphasised by parents at home. This has radically changed since the genocide, however. Government initiatives in both schools and communities now teach, “No one’s a Hutu or a Tutsi, everybody’s Rwandan and that’s it,” as one aspiring young ballerina put it.
Weekly reconciliation meetings are still held in every Rwandan village to reinforce this concept. Though the families of the genocide victims are still full of pain and can’t forget those they lost, they harbour no resentment and don’t promote anger, as “we can’t hate our neighbours, because we must all live together,” one woman said.
The fresh voices and attitudes of the young ballerinas in this film attest to Rwanda’s success in dealing with its brutal past and preparing its new generation for a peaceful future. As one young dancer said, “We can’t let this happen again… we can’t go back to where we were; we have to keep growing and expanding on that.”
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