Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rwandans Travel to North Shore via Oral History Film

The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda
Photo by Jesse Poole (2009)
By Jesse Poole
Gordon College News Service
(This story appeared February 23 in The Salem News.)
Beverly, MA—Sandra Gasana, project manager of the Montreal Life Stories Project of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, is on her way to Endicott College this week. Her purpose? To reveal the importance of the present-day stories of Rwandans, those of the nation overtaken by genocide in 1994. 
Gasana said the event’s topic would be based on the Rwandan community of Montreal, but that everyone can learn from what they have to share. “It’s always important and crucial to know what is happening in our world,” said Gasana.

Her illustrated lecture and film presentation will explore the significance of oral history to the Rwandan community of Montreal. Gasana’s talk and the screening of her film, “We will not forget: Oral history as community building in the Rwandan diaspora” will take place Thursday, February 24 from 4:30-6:00 pm in the Rose Performance Hall, Center for the Arts at Endicott College, 376 Hale Street in Beverly. It’s free and open to the public.

“The Rwandan community is involved in a very unique project that talks about important issues such as oral history, the narrative of violence, and human rights violations, which are all universal themes,” said Gasana.

Gasana, who is Rwandan herself, said the topic is absolutely relevant to those on the North Shore. She said the situation in Darfur, Southern Uganda, though the hype has somewhat dwindled away now, is not yet resolved.

“This event at Endicott College is a way to be aware of what’s happening in our world,” said Gasana. “There’s no better way to hear it than from people who have lived the event and through oral history.”

Michael Kilburn, associate professor of political science at Endicott who helped bring Gasana to campus, said, “As we come up on the 17th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the shameful lessons of those horrific weeks are still painfully relevant and seemingly unlearnt.”

According to Gasana, the documentary film, which she co-produced, is the perfect way of showcasing interviews and stories and sharing them with the world.

Today, with the new technologies around us, people have various ways of sharing their stories. “Oral history and new media is a great combination,” Gasana said. She cited YouTube as a popular example.

“The stories of survival and integration—of life after death—that Sandra brings with her work in the Rwandan diaspora, offer hope and a reminder that human lives somehow continue after the headlines fade,” said Kilburn. “As a practice of outreach, patience, and respectful listening, oral history can improve human relations on a number of levels, from the institutional to the interpersonal.”

Gasana believes oral history is not a well-known field of study, and when we hear history we tend to think only of learning facts, dates, names and places.

“We often forget that people make history and we don’t take the time to listen to what they have to say,” said Gasana.

For more information on Gasana’s presentation, visit Endicott College.


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