‘My brother was killed aged 7 years old. He was denied the chance to grow up and live his dreams and show the world what he could have done.’
Eric Murangwa Eugene MBE, Founder and CEO of the Ishami Foundation and survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, spoke of his brother at the Stones with Stories On 16 July, guests gathered via zoom to mark the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and to take part in Foundation Stones. Held in partnership with the Ishami Foundation and the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, the event was chaired by Eric, who dedicated his stone to his brother who was murdered in the genocide.
The Ishami Foundation works with a network of genocide survivors and focuses on communicating the lessons of the past through two strands of activity: sport and storytelling. They work in Rwanda and the UK. Eric invited a panel of speakers to share their reflections and inspire the guests before their stone painting. This panel included Anaïs Mutumba, Naila M. Kira, and Rehma Muguyeneza, of the Ishami Foundation, Samantha Hunt, Chair of SURF Survivors Fund, and Caroline Slifkin, Holocaust and subsequent genocides arts educator. Rehma shared a stone that had been painted by her daughter:
I took part to keep my loved ones’ memories alive and to draw awareness to what happened in my country. Hopefully with ideas like this we can help others prevent what has happened… (quoting her daughter’s letter that accompanies her stone) Kwibuka is a time to remember and commemorate the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. It allows survivors to tell their stories, it gives them a voice to honour those that died.
The song Urumuri Rutazima (The never-ending Flame of Remembrance) was played while participants either painted their stones or sat in quiet reflection. Guests were then given an opportunity to share their stones and the stories behind them. The group heard from other survivors who described the dual meanings of stones in Rwanda; they symbolise both weapons against, and protection to, those who lived through the 100 days of genocide. Other guests spoke of the need to remember those who were lost, and encourage discussion to ensure prejudice and hatred become a thing of the past.
‘Stones were one of the weapons that were killing our loved ones, but now it’s going to be another object which keeps their memory, and it’s redefining the object which is really powerful for me.’
The Foundation Stones created in this workshop will become part of the new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London. The Learning Centre will look at the British response to the Holocaust as well as the subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur.