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Avignon Festival 2017 Rwanda Theatre

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The Unwanted echoes war-time rape in Munyaneza's documentary-theatre

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Dorothée Munyaneza in Unwanted at the Avignon Festival Bruce Clarke

The voices of victims of wartime rape and their children are heard in Dorothée Munyaneza's documentary-theatre piece Unwanted, shown at the Avignon Festival this year.


Munyaneza says that "there's a clear link, but I'm not sure it's a series... " as the first source for both Unwanted and her previous work Samedi Détente (Saturday Off) are stories from the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The stories in Samedi Détente were her own and those of her friends.

At the Avignon Festival this year, her stage-documentary with vocals and sound aggressively expose the violence meted out and received during the period of terror and also the violence it left behind.

It starts with a woman's voice-off explaining how she was raped by Interhamwe militia as she fled the barbarity. She goes on to say how she became pregnant, had the child and was rejected by her family when she returned to Rwanda. And then how she rejected the child, a son.

Interviewed 60 rape victims

Munyaneza interviewed more than 60 of these women after discovering Sevota, an association of women set up in Rwanda by Godeliève Mukasarasi to help victims of rape in 1994.

After the voice-off, Munyaneza begins her interpretation on stage, of the child looking for their father in anger.

Her own vocal and physical demonstrations are backed by Holland Andrews, another impressive female vocalist from Portland in the United States.

The director, choreographer, graceful and tuneful performer Munyaneza, along with the elastic talents of Andrews and technical wizard Alain Mahé, use amplified and looped sound effects from stone, clarinet, corrugated metal, wood and powerful, creative voices to tell these difficult stories.

The mother-figure depicted on the corrugated totem decor bearing the words "No Apology", made by British artist Bruce Clarke, could be any woman.

Broader than Rwanda

Unwanted may be the first time that the subject of rape in conflict has been brought to the stage, Munyaneza says. Rwanda is the focus but the drama is about an issue that concerns all humanity, she adds.

"Focusing on Rwanda opens doors for people to try and go further than the borders. It's not an African issues. It's a human issue. It's about the female body and the children who are born of this body."

In one of the last scenes in this production which lasts just over one intense hour, Munyaneza explains that Andrews is singing about the war in Syria which began more than six years ago.

After its Avignon première, Unwanted is on tour for 10 months all over France.

It will also show in the United States and across Europe, starting with the Epidaurus festival in Athens, Greece, where the translations from Kinyarwanda are in English, then in Berlin's Tanz il August, in Bosnia, Norway, Italy and Switzerland.