Twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda, during which almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, Foam presents Love Radio – Episodes of love and hate by photographer Anoek Steketee and journalist and filmmaker Eefje Blankevoort. Love Radio is a transmedia documentary project about the complex process of reconciliation, based around a radio soap. It straddles the thin line between fact and fiction. At first glance it tells a linear, almost fairy-tale narrative, the storyline of radio soap Musekeweya (‘New Dawn’). But a closer look reveals the complex reality. While in the soap happy endings predominate, reconciliation in real life is rather more intransigent. After the gruesome killings, how can perpetrators and victims live with and love each other?
Love Radio tells a universal and timeless tale of fact and fiction, violence and reconciliation, perpetrators and victims, guilt and innocence, forgiveness and being forgiven. In the exhibition, which is especially designed for Foam, the different layers are experienced in a physical way.
Multi-screen installations with fragments from the radio soap are combined with photographs of idyllic landscapes, well-paved roads and neatly raked parks. The photographs provide a tangible, uneasy feeling that there might be more beyond the visible surface. In another space the visitor can have a look ‘behind the scene’: photographs, audio and video-interviews with the makers and actors of the radio soap, but also perpetrators and victims of the genocide, give an insight in the complexity of todays Rwandan society.
Walking through these layers, gradually it becomes clear that ‘the truth’ does not exist – only different versions of reality.
Follow the web documentary
Besides an exhibition, Love Radio consists of a web documentary and mobile tap stories. Like a soap, Love Radio unfolds in episodes, with its own characters, plotlines and cliff-hangers. In the 100 days prior to the exhibition opening – which is exactly the period in which the genocide took place 20 years ago – seven episodes will be added every other week to www.loveradio-rwanda.org.
The web documentary comprises two layers: an upper layer – On Air -, which retells the radio soap’s fictional story of hate, violence, love and reconciliation between two rival villages, and a lower layer, Off Air, which asks critical questions about the positive image portrayed and reveals what is not said On Air
For the Off Air content, please visit loveradio-rwanda.org.
Smartphone visitors to the website will see special tappable stories: short stories in photography and text, related to the episodes.
20 years after the genocide
April 2014 marks 20 years since almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered. Virulent hate campaigns in the media were at the heart of the genocide. On the same frequency that in 1994 incited the murder of the Tutsi ‘inyenzi’ (cockroaches), the radio soap Musekeweya today broadcasts a message of reconciliation. The soap is immensely popular, with millions tuning in to the weekly episodes.
“Love Radio explores outbreaks of group violence, recon¬ciliation and healing,” say journalist Eefje Blankevoort and photographer Anoek Steketee. “Musekeweya was launched in 2004 by the Dutch NGO Radio La Benevolencija. The soap applies the theories put forward by American psychologist Ervin Staub on the origins of genocide and violence. The makers hope it will heal the wounds inflicted by the genocide and prevent future outbreaks of violence. The project is based on idealistic principles, but it also raises questions. Can fiction really lead to reconciliation? Or is this positive programming simply a veneer in a country still grappling with deep trauma? What does reconciliation mean? And when does an ‘anti-genocide’ ideology itself become repressive?”
The story of Musekeweya symbolises another universal topic: the role of the media in a society, its manipulative power and the emergence of collective memory. Media – in particular radio – played a significant role in dehumanising victims in Rwanda (“Your time has come, cockroaches!”). The use of propaganda to reduce the other to the enemy is a recurring phenomenon – even in countries where outbreaks of violence of the kind seen in Rwanda are absent. So we too must ask ourselves: where does this need to create social distance come from and where can it lead? Love Radio implicitly addresses all these questions. This story affects everyone; the genocide in Rwanda is not unique, after all.
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