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Rwanda Response Essay

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In this topic, we looked at the genocide in Rwanda, and how it affected the many classes of people, who, for so long, had lived in harmony until the 1950’s. The two peoples, the Hutus and Tutsis, lived and worked together, forming inter-marriage ties and also helping each other out, but it all changed when the Hutus started a civil war, which led to the Rwandan genocide in the 1990’s.

The picture shown here was used as a stimulus in our lesson, and we talked about how it made us feel, and how we reacted to it. My initial response to the photograph was one of shock and horror, at the scale that the picture shows, and then of revulsion, that this was actually done, and not just imagined. Hatred and death were expressed by the skulls, for they said death by famine or murder, and even before reading the text, you knew that it was concerning mass loss of life. Once the article was read, I felt ashamed that humans were capable of this, and also mortified that the picture was only a fraction of the real scale that were killed. It helped me dig deeper inside my self to perform more emotional acting, because I knew that many thousands of people had felt the fear that my group were trying to portray through our acting.

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In small groups of 4 and 5 we created a frozen image trying to portray the genocide.

In my group we decided to use levels to show the difference between those who were committing the genocide – the Hutus – and those who were being killed – the Tutsis and some Hutus who were against the killing of Tutsis. Channon and Alana stood on chairs next to each other holding hands, but Alana was facing Channon with a gun to her head, and Channon was leaning down towards me and Natalie who were on the floor being oppressed. Through Alana’s facial expression, we can see that she is angry and full of hatred, almost spurred on by the betrayal of a fellow Hutu. Her body language is ridged to show her superior status to all the others in her group. Channon’s body language is almost the same as mine, crouching down, but she is also reaching down towards me, as if to help, and her facial expressions show pity, but also fear.

My body language is kneeling on the floor, looking up at Alana, who is pointing the gun at someone who is trying to help, showing my low position in the hierarchy, but also my inability to do anything about it. I use facial expression to show my hatred towards Alana, but also have to crane my neck back so that I can see her properly, again showing the levels that we incorporated into our frozen image. Natalie is lying on the floor with her head on my knee; she is in submission, and uses very submissive body language. As her hair covers her face, we cannot see any facial expression, and this portrays that she is already one of the millions killed in a seemingly pointless war. Overall, I think that our frozen image expresses both the different levels of status that were shown present throughout the genocide, but also the confusion of Hutus killing Hutus and not just Tutsis. Through facial expression, body language and levels; pity, fear, hate, anger, betrayal, submission, unity, aid, status, oppression, concern and furry are all shown, creating a web of emotions between the different people.

In the same groups, we created a short scene during which we had to use the drama technique – mark the moment. Incorporated into our scene were many of the emotions shown in our frozen image but brought to life. My changing body language and facial expression, as well as using emotive language and vocal expression made the piece even more potent. As well as using the mark the moment technique, we also did a split scene that merged at the end to form our piece as a whole. I used my characterisation skills to portray a young girl who is curious about the killings that have been going on. Natalie plays my mother, and is trying to protect me from the truth, but at the same time trying to warn me to be vigilant towards anyone who might try to harm or kill me. Channon and Alana both play Hutu soldiers, who are hiding inside our house, waiting to jump out and kill us. Alana is bloodthirsty, and wants to get this over and done with so that she can move on to the next village, but Channon, a lot more reluctant to do so, is trying to talk Alana out of the idea, and once that does not work, tries to talk herself out of doing the job. I started off in the back left corner (from the audience’s perspective) with Natalie, and was on my knees to show my lower status, expressing that I was a minor player, and had hardly any say in what went on in my life, let alone the world.

My use of characteristic skills, like using a higher pitched voice, and also by asking my mother (Natalie) awkward questions about the killings that had been going on, assured the audience that I was portraying a child’s character. Natalie was acting the role of the concerned parent, and one of my many questions; was why are people killing other people? Before she replied, Natalie looked slightly toward the audience and sighed quietly, her shoulders sagging and her facial expression of caring mother slipped to reveal a person worried about how she can answer such a question in a way to make me understand that she cannot protect me from everything. As we are talking, we both come around in a curve across the front of the stage and stop in a frozen image while Alana and Channon act out their part of the scene before we merge. Alana and Channon are having a whispered argument about what they are doing, and if it is right or not. Both have different opinions, and I think that it expresses the confusion that many of the Hutus might have been going through very well, and the consequences that have to pay for their indecision.

As they do not get as much chance to move around the stage as much as us, and as they are not completely visible because chairs are serving as the cupboard doors, from the audiences perspective, you can only really hear them. The vocal expression used expressed the indecision that Channon’s character felt, but also Alana’s cold-blooded resolve, and the way that they were reasoning their emotions helped the audience recognize the path that led them to this point in their life. Once the two scenes merged, I played while Natalie cooked, and I heard noises coming from the cupboard that the soldiers are hiding in. Dismissing the noises, I carried on until they burst out, and Natalie tried to shield me with her body. Alana then shoots Natalie, before turning on Channon, and asking if she is with her or against her. Channon cannot bring herself to kill others, so she chooses the latter option, and is shot for her treachery. When both Natalie and Channon are killed, they slow the pace right down, to show that that is where the mark the moment is, and that is where are trying to get the audience to pay attention at. The scene ends ironically, with both Tutsis and Hutus being killed, portraying what actually happened in the Rwandan genocide.

During one of our lessons, we where shown a film clip from ‘Hotel Rwanda’, which helped us to see the scale of the refugee problem. As a convoy of trucks are driving along, they come upon a trickle of refugees that quickly turns into a whole river, filling up the whole of the road, making it very hard going for the trucks to get through. Though it is still only a film clip, and would not have been able to show us the full scale horror of it all, it gave us an idea of how bad it was, and helped to inspire us in the piece of drama that we had to create about fleeing from your home, and finding many of the refugee camps full.

In our three scene improvisation, we were told to use the film clip on refugees as a stimulus, and create three short scenes on fleeing their home, being refused at the first refugee camp, and being accepted into the second, showing both relief and frustration. Ellis starts off walking in slow motion towards the audience, bent over, using her body language to show that she is carrying something heavy, and her vocal expression showed that she was exhausted and was finding it hard to keep going. We used our hands to make the gunshot sound, and it echoed around the room while Ellis fell in slow motion. Once caught, her body language changed to show she was in pain, and her breathing was even more laboured and more forced out of her body, showing that she was fighting.

I found the subject of the Rwandan genocide very good to base my acting on, because it helped me dig inside myself and bring out another branch of acting that I had not really practiced that much. It helped me to understand more of the drama techniques that are applied when doing more serious acting. Within the topic, my favourite part was exploring the problem of refugees after the genocide, particularly in the three short scene improvisations because it gave me a chance to try myself at more desperate acting, and I found it quite challenging, but overall it helped me improve my acting. The child soldiers helped me to work up my confidence to create a monologue in a very short time, and create what I felt was a satisfactory piece, as I am quite shy about standing up in front of people and acting out by myself. Through this I worked up my courage and felt a lot more comfortable with it.

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