Godelieve Mukasarasi receives TCU Global Innovator Award

Thanks to Alex Masi, I have some photos to share from the Global Innovator Award presentation to Godelieve Mukasarasi, Director of SEVOTA in Rwanda.

Godelieve Mukasarasi

Just before coming to Fort Worth, Godelieve was in Washington DC to receive an award from the US Department of State, presented by Melania Trump.

Godelieve in DC

The ceremony started with a beautiful film that Adam created for the event – a collection of photographs and video clips from various sources, including our January visit in Rwanda with Godelieve.

Next the TCU Rwandan community, led by Pacifique Rutamu (in front, and center), danced for Godelieve. They used the dancing to bring her to stage, along with the presenters.

men dancing

Benite

odile.Aurore.FideleDarlene

Finally, Elizabeth Gillaspy (Director, TCU School for Classical & Contemporary Dance) and Anne Helmreich (Dean, TCU College of Fine Arts) presented the award – Irené Kwihangana translated, and SCCD dance majors, travelers to Rwanda, presented the actual awards.

SCCD22 copy

Group photos to further convey the festive nature of the evening.

TCU Rwanda

 

SCCD61

 

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TCU Endeavors Magazine

Had a lovely interview with Beatriz Terrazas back in the fall.  It would seem being able to condense an hour-long conversation into so few words, still capturing essence, is somewhat like composing minute-long dances, or piano works.  (p.15)  SDR 2

Lori Diel’s work is in here as well! (p. 11)

https://20auvj44da9p3u0ps1z9avfg-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Endeavors-2018.pdf

Photo: Alex Masi  Dancer: Laura Mobley

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village

One of our TCU friends, Pacifique Rutamu, graduated from Agahozo Shalom Youth Village. https://asyv.orghttps://asyv.org ASYV was founded by American Anne Heyman https://asyv.org/our-founder/  The framework of ASYV mirrors that the model of residential youth communities built in Israel after WWII for orphans of the Holocaust . https://asyv.org/the-asyv-story/https://asyv.org/the-asyv-story/ The goal of ASYV, therefore is …to heal and educate vulnerable Rwandan youth, helping them to realize their maximum potential, and become socially responsible citizens.

Before arriving to ASYV, Pacifique had told us that Ms. Heyman searched throughout Rwanda to find an inspiring site and, guided by a Rwandan proverb that states If you can see far, you will go far – she settled the village into the hilly terrain north and east of Kigali.

see far go far

We had lunch at ASYV – it was delicious – warm, grounding. We had just come from the Kigali Genocide Memorial and speaking for myself, the beans and rice helped to fill some quite vacuous spaces in my body.

 

 

We met director, JC (Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura) and public relations fellow MC (Marie Claire Levy), and Fulbright Specialist and volunteer, Phyllis Lerner for a tour as well as some of the incoming first year students. Competition is fierce to enter ASYV. Teachers across the country make recommendations – about 2500 in total – and only 128 students are chosen to enter each year. Notably, 2/3 are young women and 1/3 are young men. Rwanda is prioritizing the education of women.

see far go far 1

We toured the campus – it’s several acres. We started in the dining hall/gathering space, went up to visit the classrooms, amphitheater, residential section and agricultural and livestock sectors. In that oh-so-small-world way, when we arrived at the amphitheater, I put two and two together, and realized that new friend and TCU partner, Shelby Sullivan,  Volunteer Coordinator of Refugee Services in Texas (Fort Worth division), had been to ASYV!  We were talking about Rwanda before the trip – in November – and she mentioned ASYV and how remarkable it was both for how it was designed and developed, and the success it has had. She mentioned weekly performances in the amphitheater. It turns out that Pacifique was on the dance team – he performed regularly in ASYV’s amphitheater. And, of note, when he was there, the team won 2nd place in national competition. Shelby was one of eight fellows at ASYV in 2015. Fellows rotate yearly and are the cousins to the eight households where the students live with a Mama. The residential living spaces and the village itself were created to reflect family structures.  It is truly lovely to have found another in my immediate sphere who has a clear picture of where we were, what we saw, some insight into the feelings we experienced, and the spirit of the people we met.

Godelieve Mukasarasi

Global Innovator - MukasarasiTCU will present this award to Godelieve Mukasarasi on Saturday evening, March 24th during the DanceTCU Concert. There is a reception following the concert to honor Mrs. Mukasarasi.

W.E. Scott Theater / Fort Worth Community Arts Center / 1300 Gendy Street / 76107                          Tickets $15 General Admission / $7.50 Students with ID                                                                                                  Ticket purchase on line: dance.tcu.edu

Austin Dance Festival: Dance on Film

tea cup and leafSee “Loretta” – 8:00pm, Ballet Austin’s City View Lounge, 501 W. 3rd , Austin

Sometimes choreography and cinematography like to jam in this wonderful genre of art we like to call dance film. This year, Austin Dance Festival is thrilled to present “Dance on Film,” the first installation of a dance film screening and sharing which will kick off the weekend of modern dance celebration. If you’re looking to treat your eyes, join us downtown to see a handful of selected works by movers and filmmakers nationwide!

http://www.kdhdance.com/austin-dance-festival/line-up/

Gisimba Memorial Center and After-School Program

Gisimba Memorial Center and After-School Program is Patrick Rutikanga’s family legacy. Patrick’s grandparents founded the center as an orphanage in the 1970s. His father and uncle ran the orphanage from 1986 to 2017. In 2012, the Rwandan government began the process of closing all the orphanages in the country, shifting to a foster care system. After the transition, Patrick and his father, Damas Gisimba, shifted the focus to an after-school program, gathering and serving the vulnerable children in this Kigali neighborhood and two other sectors of the city.

http://ktpress.rw/2017/11/gisimba-orphanage-turns-into-training-centre/

Patrick tour

The students who meet at Gisimba daily include many who are not enrolled in school. By first-world standards, school fees and uniforms are not expensive. But for many families in these neighborhoods, the costs are well beyond their means. Gisimba teachers – volunteering their time – engage the children in dance, singing, drumming, painting and jewelry-making.  They also work with them on literacy and tutor those who are in school in other subjects. There is an on-site library in addition to the several studios and gathering places for performing, sports and sharing time with visitors, like our group.

 

The children shared their dance and music with us.

 

We visited the jewelry-making studio and the painting studio. The children sell their work to help support their families.

Library

The children are proud of their library and work there in a creative learning environment.

To say I was impressed with the Gisimba teachers would be an understatement. They are working artists and, in one case, a working surgeon.  The teachers’ investment – and their joy – in engaging with the children, is palpable.  As is Patrick’s. Patrick designed a summer camp this past year “I Know I Can!” which had great success. He is dreaming of expanding it to last longer, and have greater a greater impact: for example, he would like the children to be able to tour their performance work. Patrick is a graduate of TCUs IEP and we are looking forward to his return to graduate school next fall.

We enjoyed dinner one evening with Patrick and the dance teachers from Gisimba. Eya Khalifa shared one of the AFRO KASA films with us – work he choreographed and performs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7OOwPIMU78

In opening this entry, I noted that the Gisimba Center is Patrick’s legacy. It is also the legacy of the Rwandese people. A legendary act of bravery occurred here during the 1994 genocide.  Patrick’s father, Damas, his uncle, Jean-Francoise and an American named Carl Wilkens, country director of ADRA, the Adventist relief organization, stood together to prevent a massacre of over 400 orphans and adults taking refuge in the center. There is a brief account here in this 2011 Guardian article on line.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jun/21/rwanda-heroes-reunited

In his book “I’m not leaving” published by World Outside My Shoes (Spokane WA) in 2011, Wilkens offers a detailed account of his stay in Kigali during the 100-day genocide when the rest of the international community fled and the choices he made daily to move as a human being among human beings through the height of the devastation. It is a difficult read. May we all inherit their courage.

 

Inema Arts Center

Founded and directed by Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza, Inema Arts Center is defined by its gallery space and its arts programs for children. http://inemaartcenter.com  I found this arts center to be such a lively place. The interior walls – including the stairwell – are covered with paintings and mixed media works: those by various of the ten resident artists and an entire gallery of the children’s works. There is the workshop on the ground level and a coffee shop and patio – it’s a gathering place. And there are works all over the grounds to enjoy, with which to engage, that spark imagery and connectivity of spirit. On the street side of the building is a large mural with President Kigali’s portrait and words that both inspire and lead.

Inema bldg.Paul Kagame mural

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was also taken with the wire sculpture that greeted us on entrance. For all its durable materials, there was something so very humanly malleable about it; so very inviting.

Inema sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, this figure is in a position that I inhabit – and often see inhabited – in the dancing that I do, and have grown up with artistically. It felt familiar.

mission    Art with a mission.

There is a balcony on the second level from which one can reach into the city as it climbs the hills and out of view.

view from second story gallery

The Inema artists provide experiences for emerging artists in African Arts, Crafts, Music and Dance. We had the privilege of interacting with young dancers and drummers: they introduced us to their cultural dance and drumming, and then pulled us out into the common space to teach us a short sequence. I worked with a small master who took a firm grip on both of my hands, held them wide apart from one another, and kept me in motion so that I could “hear” and follow the rhythm of his steps.

This is my teacher in his solo dance.

my teacher in solo

And these are the musicians/artist teachers – with whom he was working and his dancing crew.

drummers

After a long game of water bottle balancing with Emmanuel – flip a partially filled water bottle and try to lay your weight into just so, so that the bottle lands upright – I was reminded of how far play – and laughter – and some small measure of competition goes in settling into the common ground necessary to form a friendship. This photo was near the beginning of the action; Irené had not yet jointed the fray. By the end, we were all circled around, cheering on the contestants! Emmanuel was – hands down (bottles up?) – the champ. But Michael and Irené gave it their all, with gusto.

game

I bought a painting by a young artist named Vincent who studies in the Inema program. I fell in love with it because it is motion-based.

painting

We gathered with Emmanuel and Innocent just before departing. This is an extraordinary place created, developed and run with such vision. our group with Inema founders

 

 

MindLeaps

On return to Kigali after our first trip to SEVOTA, we visited the MindLeaps/Rwanda studio. MindLeaps is an organization founded and directed by Rebecca Davis, a recipient of the Gratitude Network Award.  https://mindleaps.org/en/

The Gratitude Network seeks out the world’s most dynamic and innovative leaders and organizations impacting the lives of children and youth. Those that are selected as awardees receive a 1‐year program of intense coaching, mentoring and strategic advice to help them scale their business model to achieve results they only dreamed of. http://gratitude-network.org

sign

We met Rebecca on our flight from Doha to Kigali – by chance she was heading to Rwanda at the same to we were. To hear directly from Rebecca, listen to her TEDxFulbright talk.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxdZPdiaSO4

The MindLeaps programs are incredible. MindLeaps is staffed in-country, and the focus is “preparing vulnerable children for education” – children who live on the streets and/or who are not enrolled in school. The MindLeaps Rwandan staff works with 65 children every day, ages 9-18, working to teach them dance and life-skills through dance. Each morning, the children start their day at the MindLeaps facility with porridge and a shower. When they are able to gather consistency, community and discipline, they work with tutors: IT, languages, health studies, social studies, science and math. The staff and tutors prepare them to enter boarding schools in the capital and around the country: to have the chance to continue their education; to enter adulthood with options.

We were there to see them warm-up and then they danced for us, and we for them. What  a studio full of spirit and energy! There is a healthy amount of competition – I thought those kids were going to jump through the ceiling!  I tried to capture this moment of one of the teachers giving each individual a “high 5” after crossing the floor with turns and leaps: these dancers are seen.

dance

high five

Bashir Karenzi, Managing Director and MindLeaps teacher,  was a gracious host and offered insight into the goals of the program with both logic and heart.

Rebecca is joining us in late March. She will engage with the students in the School for Classical & Contemporary Dance at TCU – sharing her experiences and her methodology – and with the greater TCU and Fort Worth communities sharing films made about the MindLeaps work as part of the KinoMonda (film) Series – March 28.

More on SEVOTA

Of the eleven SEVOTA centers around the country, we visited two. I think often about those experiences. Godelieve and the leaders in these two communities created means for everyone to move together, and for us, as their guests, to learn more about them in the process of simply being with them.Beth, Raavi, Leah

Elisabeth, Leah and Raavi outside the SEVOTA entrance in Taba.

The 23rd anniversary of the founding of SEVOTA was December 28th but in both of these communities, they waited until our visit so that we might be part of the celebration. As I mentioned in the most recent post, we experienced first-hand the power of dance to communicate and to transport the spirit. When you move your body, you move the space interior to the body, and you move the space around you. When a roomful of people are dancing together – when there is a group of young women filling the space around which we are all gathered – when that space is then alive with a group of men dancing full on with traditional war gear – when you are face to face with a woman who has invited you to dance and you are (dancer that you are!) attempting as best you can to embody the ease and grace of her motion – there is nothing else! We talked about this as a group: we left these gatherings exhilarated and with the sense that we had just come from long conversations with old friends.

SEVOTA second day

Our second visit to SEVOTA: Irené’s group selfie

What did we learn about SEVOTA?  Each community center is a bit different. The first SEVOTA center in Taba began as a sanctuary of sorts, primarily for women who were survivors of rape and children who were born of rape. Now each center continues to serve both survivors and the larger community in which it is located. There are focus groups associated with each center. For example, during the second visit, we met members of a group for children, a group for women and a group for married couples. In the center we visited, the focus groups meets together weekly, and engage in either conversation or activities that foster support, education or artistic activities. Representatives of the children’s group danced for and with us; one of the young girls read a poem she had written.  SEVOTA also has a division of animal husbandry and supports individuals and families who wish to acquire and care for animals. Just after we left, Godelieve purchased five pigs for a family to raise. When the pigs reproduce, their owners will give the piglets to their neighbors: paying it forward toward the cultivation of long-lasting community.

the pigs

The new pigs!

Some of the SEVOTA centers provide counseling services; this is a program offering brought forward from the earliest days. SEVOTA also organizes ‘field trips.’ Additionally, the SEVOTA organization has been instrumental in helping community members cultivate land for their own food resources, and to trade or sell produce. And finally, SEVOTA has supported education in its communities as well as helped individuals start businesses. The SEVOTA leaders often meet in Kigali. As Godelieve says: The journey from the countryside is a positive experience. It gives them [the women] a sense of purpose and a chance to leave their home areas. And it gives them a new outlook when they go home.*

clay road

Road between Kigali and Taba.

One of the most emotional and humbling moments, for me, at both SEVOTA gatherings was the celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the founding of SEVOTA. Members at both communities honored Godelieve through song, dance and speech. They spoke of her leadership with passion and gratitude, and detailed what SEVOTA has helped them accomplish. Godelieve brought a large candle, and invited us to light it with her. Members then passed the flame from candle to candle through the room, in symbolic representation of the light of SEVOTA moving through the community. To be part of that ritual, so personal to these communities and yet shared so readily, took my breath away.

candle

http://www.sevota.org

Godelieve returns to TCU as a distinguished guest in March of this year.

On to SEVOTA

Sit back!  This is a long one.

Godelieve Mukasarasi formed SEVOTA 23 years ago in Taba, Rwanda – site of some of the harshest acts of the 1994 genocide; home to four of the bravest women I have ever met.

Just over a year ago, Godelieve and three women from Taba visited TCU. They had come to the USA for the premier of Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel’s The Uncondemned. (There is a photograph of the four of them on the home page of this website as well as detailed information about the film, its creative team, and ways to support at essence.) The film premiered at the UN and because TCU was one of the eight producers, everyone then traveled to Fort Worth for a premier here. While visiting, the women came to Erma Lowe Hall to dance with us.

Let me back track a bit: Godelieve is a social worker and psychologist by training and she founded SEVOTA primarily to support women who had born children as a result of rape. In her words: Right from the beginning we focused on counseling, and the clients were almost all women. I started something we called Advice Saturdays, where they could come together and share their experiences… once she has opened up, it’s important for her to speak about the experience among her colleagues [neighbors, acquaintances, friends]. Maybe they hadn’t been subjected to exactly the same traumas, but they were having similar experiences after. So I grouped them together based on their needs. We had a gathering for women who’d been raped, for those who were widows…with this kind or that kind of challenge.*

Godelieve

This is Godelieve.

And I need to establish the importance of dancing. Again, Godelieve’s words: We needed to liberate the negative energy that people were still holding, so we decided to introduce traditional dance, singing, some games and skits that would make people laugh. When you’re dancing, you get some exercise, you feel more joyous, and so you let go naturally of some of the injuries to your heart, to your spirit. It happens automatically. And that’s how these women, little by little, began to restart their lives.*

So while we were dancing together in Erma Lowe Hall, Godelieve stopped us all and said “Come to Rwanda! We invite you to Rwanda.” That’s how we all started together.

As part of almost every engagement we had in Rwanda there was dancing. At SEVOTA, we were greeted with dancing; our friends danced for us; we danced for them (yes, all of us!); we danced together. We made two trips, visiting two of the eleven SEVOTA community centers during our time in Rwanda and at both locations we experienced first-hand the power of dance to communicate and to transport the spirit.

women's dance first dayLeah.Beth dancingdancing together

This, we learned, is the embodied process of dance and healing, and the way in which dance plays a part in changing a culture.

*Note: Godelieve’s words come from a book just published in 2017, Rwandan Women Rising. Author Swanee Hunt relates the history of Rwanda over the past ~60 years, frames and gives substance to the recent past and present, and opens the narrative to the  voices of 90 Rwandan women to fill in most of the detail. This book has been a fundamental resource for me as I begin to learn about Rwanda, and focus not on the genocide but the tremendous capacity for a country to reconcile and forgive. I am still struggling to understand how this peace-making works. These are not groups of people isolated in different parts of the country, separated by fences or armed guards or the like: these are neighbors learning to live with each other, define governance and justice with each other, cultivate a shared space amongst each other. There are no longer Tutsis, Hutu and Twa in Rwanda – there are only Rwandans.  https://www.amazon.com/Rwandan-Women-Rising-Swanee-Hunt/dp/0822362570/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517341574&sr=1-1&keywords=rwandan+women+rising+by+swanee+hunt