Past Event

The Upright Women: 30 Years After the Genocide in Rwanda

April 25, 2024
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Buell Hall, 515 W. 116 St., New York, NY 10027 East Gallery

Given the arrest of more than 100 Columbia and Barnard students on campus by the NYPD, the numerous student suspensions and expulsions from student housing, and the administration's increasing restrictions on access to campus, public events at the Maison Francaise are cancelled for the near future.  Thank you for your understanding.

We invite you to a special evening dedicated to the memory of the 1994 Genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. The evening will unfold in two parts meant to help appease the ghosts and silences of 1994 through the images and voices of Upright Women. First, a reading of All Your Children, Scattered, the impressive text by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse about three generations of survivors, accompanied by a slide show of "The Upright Women", a visual installation designed by artist Bruce Clarke. Secondly, a screening of Words of Silence, a documentary film by Gaël Faye and Michael Sztank that opens the discussion about “the unspeakable”, the power of words, and the weight of silence.

Since the twentieth century, and unlike previous wars, civilians have often become the main victims in armed conflicts. In Rwanda, as well as being civilian victims, women also suffered particularly through gender-based violence: rape, intentional HIV contamination, and genital mutilation, among other forms of sexual assault. Rape affected between 300,000 and 500,000 women and more than 66% of Tutsi raped victims subsequently tested positive for HIV. The use of massive violence against Tutsi women aimed at annihilating the community as a whole by attacking the source of life: women’s bodies.

If women victims were particularly affected by the genocidal policy, they also proved to be essential actors in the reconstruction and transmission of post-genocide memory. At the end of the genocide, women represented 70% of the surviving population. This was the beginning of a long process of resilience, reconciliation, and national reconstruction in which women, thanks to their will and determination, played a leading role. Alone at the head of their family, women mobilized in associations to help each other, adopting orphans or helping with the reinsertion of refugees. At the heart of Rwandan society, “Upright” women resist all forms of dehumanization, they (re)weave lost bonds with dignity, and they have been the leading figures in the country's recovery, in particular by creating AVEGA, the Association of Widows of the April Genocide, as well as intermediaries in the transmission of memory to future generations. 


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Maison Francaise