On Monday, November 28th, I presented "ICYIZERE:hope" to an Advanced Micro-Economic Theory class at the University of Nairobi. The class was located in room 209 @ the Mahatma Ghandi Wing of the University.
The class ran from 5:30 to 8:30. The students had an hour-long exam, and I had 2 hours to share the 55-minute version of my film and lead a discussion.
In this class of 40 graduate students, we discussed just how similar the events portrayed in ICYIZERE were to what had befallen Kenya in 2007/8. A student commented on how he thought the film should be shown at as many venues as possible, because many Kenyans needed to find a way to start conversations about the underlying issues that plague our country. "If these issues go unaddressed," he said, "then we are sure to have a repeat of 2007/8, only this time greater."
"The problem is," said a young lady, "that Kenyans don't know how to speak about these issues without creating even more conflict. So we just avoid the topic altogether."
Recalling the scene in ICYIZERE where Solange, a Tutsi, says "our parents tell us that the other ethnicity is 'like this and like that' so we grow up hating the Hutu," a smartly dressed young man suggested that films and books that address topics of forgiveness and reconciliation should be included in the Primary School syllabus. "If we begin with the little ones, then we can reach a deep and abiding part of them. Civic education should be made a priority in this country. We need a sense of national pride."
One lady spoke of her employer, a national bank, assigning employees to parts of the country according to their ethnicity. "This is what Kenya has come to," she said, resigned. Where you don't belong because you were born to your parents.
The class discussion was supposed to end at 8:30, but continued until 9:10. The conclusion was unanimous: Although it seems that there is little we can do about the seeming indifference of the powers that be, there is plenty to be done on an individual level. Ideally, there should be a top-down AND a bottom-up approach, but we should not wait for those in government to get it together in order for us to address what ails us.
If indeed the greatest malady in Africa (and in the rest of the world as well) is unresolved psychological trauma, then every single one of us has to take responsibility for the quality of their emotions, doing what needs to be done in order to have serenity and peace of mind. In order to be whole.
At the end of ICYIZERE, Mama Aline says: "In the rain, a fool thinks he is wetter than others. The genocide affected us all .... "
The Post-Election Violence affected us all as well. Every single one of us.
If we say we want peace, then we also have to say that we need to heal from trauma, because you cannot have one without the other. To the extent that we fail to address our unresolved trauma, do we invite repeated cycles of violence. This happens on an individual, as well as the communal level.
Being in the Mahatma Ghandi Wing, I concluded my presentation with a quote from the Great Soul himself:
Posing with students after the presentation: 2 Patricks, Steve and Kelvin
View of Nairobi city from the University of Nairobi