FESTIVAL D’AVIGNON : INTERVIEW DOROTHEE MUNYANEZA (In English)

71e FESTIVAL D’AVIGNON – Interview Dorothée Munyaneza – « Unwanted » –  Chartreuse de Villeneuve – 7-13 juillet 18h – relâche le 10.

Larger than life
Seen in 2015, Samedi Détente, the name of a radio station in Rwanda and of a piece by Dorothée Munyaneza – is a shock; it shows us, through words and images — the extraordinary violence of the Rwandan genocide. In the clear light of History we are shown all the parties’ responsibilities, with the perspective of a work of art such that the statements and conclusions made by Dorothée Munyaneza can be applied to other massacres, rendering them universal. In Unwanted she takes a stand for Syria and the women of that country, showing how History is an eternal, bloody restarting of events, as if Man has learned absolutely nothing from past exactions. From New York where she was staying at the time this portrait is being written, Dorothée Munyaneza answered our questions:

Inferno : Olivier Py said that it is the artists who choose the definition of their work by genre in the program and that you, you chose “indiscipline” … You did it literally – or you feel “undisciplined” here and in your own country; do you find that it is difficult, complicated or impossible to classify your work as either “dance” or “theatre”?
D. Munyanesa : I chose the indiscipline category because the works I want to create use music, voice, dance, theatre and other art forms – in fact I prefer not to be categorized.
And when you speak of “my country,” do you mean Rwanda? Because I am also British and I have lived for nearly nine years in France, and I also feel at home here in New York.

One of your pieces asks: “And you, where were you on April 6, 1994?” This question is linked to the Rwanda genocide, which you experienced … in the world as it today, as you observe it, do you think that this kind of an event, a huge ethnic massacre (800,000 killed, I think) is still possible, in Africa and the rest of the world?
Do you think that Man has learned from this mass killing and will now stop it from happening again?
My first piece was called Samedi Détente and the sentence Where were you in April 1994? is a question I have asked many times of my collaborators Alain Mahé and Nadia Beugré in my residencies, and which I also wanted to ask during the piece.
I ask it in Samedi Détente because I want to know what happened in the lives of the people who have come to see Samedi Détente – at the moment when the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda was taking place. Some of them had not yet been born, some were being born, others were finishing their studies, some were getting married or divorced … This question can still be asked, for example by a Syrian woman who can ask me in ten years, Where were you in April 2017? and I will answer by saying I was preparing Unwanted, a piece in which I evoke the plight of the Syrian women. We, the human race, we are capable of both wonderful and terrible actions, and often we forget the atrocities which we have perpetrated and begin to commit further atrocities, for example the massacres of the Syrian people or the Yazidis.

In 2015 you created a piece about the Rwandan genocide. What is the subject of Unwanted?
In November 2014, I created Samedi Détente, an autobiographical piece about my childhood to speak of the Tutsi genocide of 1994. Twenty years afterward I returned to these painful memories to speak of those no longer with us.
For some time, I have been interested in women’s bodies, the violated, intimate body. In Unwanted, I want to continue this work of sharing, of witnessing, finding the words of women whose bodies have been violated or hurt because they live in zones ravaged by war and wide ranging massacres. I was interested in what happens to the female body in times of conflict, massacre and genocide. It was watching The Man Who Repairs Women by Thierry Michel, about Doctor Denis Mukwege, a Congolese Ob-Gyn, who operates on women in the eastern Congo, women who have been raped – that I began my research on the question of crime, of rape as a weapon of mass destruction. The history of humanity is full of examples in which this crime is committed with complete impunity, in the Congo, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda during the Tutsi genocide, and today in Syria …

Do you think that Avignon is a good sounding board for African performing arts?
I am honored to be premiering Unwanted at the Avignon Festival, which I think is an important venue where our artistic voice may resonate and reach out – it’s a better pun in French! – whether you are European, African or from the rest of the world. It is true that there are a lot of contemporary artists in Africa or in the diaspora, who have been creating for a long time, or who have just begun to create their work; together we approach our art and our stories differently, and I hope that we will all continue to talk about our world wherever there is space, breaking down the physical and mental walls built higher and higher – here and everywhere.

La Charteuse de Villeneuve is a strong, important venue … you are returning there. Does it adapt well to your work? Were you inspired there?
The first time we came here was in July 2015 when Samedi Détente was part of the Rencontres d’été of Catherine Dan. And we are coming back for the premiere of Unwanted. La Chartreuse de Villeneuve-lez-Avignon is both a place marked by the passage of time and by those who lived there. I like being there a lot, I feel good in this peaceful, beautiful place. I find that time stretches out here, which helps when everything is going so fast; being a little outside the center of Avignon while still being able to go there quite quickly is a plus. It is a place for me where silence goes along with creativity.

Interview Emmanuel Serafini
Translation Sara Sujihara

Photo Bruce Clarke

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