An exploration of community perceptions and understanding of Rwandan genocide memorials.
Bazubagira, Appoline Kabera.
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This study aims to explore community perceptions and understandings of Rwandan Genocide Memorials. It used selected samples of ten genocide memorials that are scattered throughout the country. Those memorial sites are Bisesero, Kamonyi, Kiziguro, Murambi, Nyamashake, Nyamata, Nyange, Nyanza, Rebero and Shyorongi. The genocide of 1994 has strongly affected Rwandans and its consequences continue to distress the social and cultural values. Today Rwanda is tirelessly committed to rebuild and restore the remnants of material and non material aspects of the country. One of the non material aspects emphasized in this research is remembrance. In building genocide memorials, Rwanda is refusing to let go unrecognized the victims of genocide. Through pictures, graphics and photographs, genocide memorials talk to the community. The population reads and interprets differently the messages genocide memorials communicate. The community's interpretation is often influenced by various personal experiences and by social, cultural, political and religious environments. The way the community reads and interprets the message of genocide memorials has the potential to influence social relationships. The approach used to discover the perceptions and interpretations of the genocide memorials messages from the community views was the functionalist theory. Manifest and latent functions helped to determine respectively the pre-defined and non-recognized functions. This theory helped to discover the dysfunctional roles of those symbols among the community. The present research is an empirical study which used a qualitative approach. It helped the researcher to describe and analyze different perceptions and understandings attributed to the genocide memorials from the ordinary people. The methodology that was used in order to achieve relevant results was focus groups and personal interviews. Through group discussions and interviews, it was discovered that genocide memorials communicate a non violent message that assist Rwandans to improve their social relationships. On the other side, genocide memorials communicate a violent message able to stand in the way of improving social relationships in the community and both poles were stressed. The third position stood between those two extreme poles. It accepted the positive and the negative effects of the messages of the genocide memorials. The themes that were identified by the respondents reflected and articulated these functional and dysfunctional consequences of genocide memorials messages in the community. Although genocide memorials are important monuments, their messages are critical to the Rwandan situation where the community relationships are still not settled. The atrocities that continue to be expressed necessitate a particular consideration in order to reduce their negative consequence.