From the Revenge Quest to the Reconciliation Journey: Munyurangabo's Redefining of Warriorship in Rwanda

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Meredith Shepard


For most of the twentieth century, Rwandan society was plagued by a revenge cycle of oppression and violence between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnicities following the institutionalization of ethnicity by Belgian colonizers. This violence culminated in the 1994 genocide when Hutu militia massacred nearly one million Tutsi, Twa, and Hutu resistors in one hundred days. Since then, the post-genocide government, whose army ended the genocide, has attempted to found a nation based on national unity and reconciliation, in which ethnic identification is essentially prohibited. Much attention has been paid in the fields of sociology, anthropology, history, human rights, international development, and law to Rwanda’s development following the genocide, with scholarly debate focused on whether the post-genocide government is progressive or repressive and whether its policies should be emulated in other post-conflict societies. Differently, I approach the topic of post-genocide Rwanda from the perspective of literary and cultural studies. Unlike most scholars, I am not invested in evaluating the Rwandan government. Instead, I look to the aesthetic realm to nuance what reconciliation in Rwanda means to the individuals experiencing it. In this article, I concentrate on a particular aesthetic form, Lee Isaac Chung’s Kinyarwanda-language film Munyurangabo, which was scripted and acted by nonprofessional Rwandan actors in 2006 in accordance with what they thought most realistic for people like them reconciling with family and neighbors following the genocide.

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