A bilingual version of “Breaking the Silence,” a critically acclaimed play about the legacy of Cambodia’s genocide, will be staged for the first time in Rwanda this Saturday to mark the 18th anniversary of the start of the 1994 genocide in the African nation.
The play—written and directed by Annemarie Prins in 2009 and produced by Cambodia’s Amrita Performing Arts—which has been widely shown in Cambodia’s provinces, will be performed in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and two other cities.
In addition to the seven regular Cambodian cast members, two Rwandan actors will be joining the tour and will help to bridge the language gap by speaking in the local language, Kinyarwanda, according to a statement by the producers.
“It’s an opportunity for two communities still coming to terms with the aftermath of genocide to explore the arts as a means of reconciliation,” said Fred Frumberg, executive director of Amrita Performing Arts.
“The artists have the opportunity to share in their crafts and tap into their parallel tools as theater makers who can make a difference in their communities, while the audience will hopefully be provoked and moved to greater dialogue…as they examine and experience the parallels in their recent histories.”
The play focuses on the stories of four women who survived the Khmer Rouge regime and three representatives of a younger generation, as well as themes of guilt reconciliation. There will be an audience discussion after each performance.
Radio La Benevolencija—a Dutch NGO that works in Rwanda, Congo and Burundi, producing educational television programs and theater—is co-producing the play in Rwanda. Rwandan television will broadcast the performance, which is being funded by the Dutch Embassy, the Open Society Foundation, and the Goethe-Institut.
“Despite the enormous differences in duration and type of genocide in Rwanda and Cambodia, the effects are similar. Just to name some: feelings of ‘survivors’ guilt,’ of loneliness, shame and isolation,” said the producers’ statement.
Between April and June 1994, the UN estimates that 800,000 people-—mainly ethnic Tutsis—were killed by Hutu extremists. Many of the alleged perpetrators have been tried or are on trial at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania.
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