Last Thursday saw the screening of the documentary "A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake" at Constitution Hill. This is part of a collaborative programme to mark 20 years since the first public hearings, on 15 April 1996, of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The screening was co-hosted by the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre (JHGC) and the High Commission of Rwanda in Pretoria.
Tali Nates of JHGC acted as MC for the evening. The screening was preceded by an address by the Rwandan High Commissioner on the importance of remembering the events of the past and commemorating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This was followed by a brief introduction to the importance of The battle against forgetting by Piers Pigou, a South African History Archive (SAHA) board member. Reuben Phasha, the representative of Constitution Hill wrapped up the introductory talks by discussing the role of Constitution Hill as a site to prompt and enable remembering the past.
A candle lighting ceremony was held, after a short on the Rwanda genocide was viewed, in memory of those who had passed away during the genocide prior to the documentary screening.
Inez McGregor, the current Right to Truth (RTT) intern for Struggles for Justice Programme, reflected on the screening:
“I was pleased to see such a good turnout for the documentary screening. There were over 100 people in attendance. A candle procession was held to commemorate those who had lost loved ones during the Rwandan Genocide 22 years ago. At least half the room went to light candles and it was very moving. These candles then produced a warm glow which was present through the rest of the screening serving as a gentle reminder for the rest of the evening.
I had actually seen the play which the documentary is based on during my high school years. It was fascinating to see the process and the personal impact that the play had on the actors. I could really empathise with the actors in their process of dealing with the information that came out of the TRC. Working with transcripts as the RTT intern and reading through some of the hearings can have quite an effect on one. This film is a must see and well worth it. It leads one to introspection and raises relevant questions of forgiveness and memory.”
Kimberly Hui, a Canadian lawyer currently interning at SAHA through the Canadian Bar Association Young Lawyers' Program, reflects on the evening's events:
“I had not previously heard of this film or play but was incredibly glad I attended the screening. The event was very well received and at one point, the host asked that all those affected by the genocide in Rwanda light a vigil in memory of their hard times. I was shocked to see so many in the room who were devastated by the gross atrocities that occurred. The film spanned over several different countries and the conversations, music and questions it posed took me for an emotional roller coaster ride. It was an intense rush of truth by different voices and showcased the difficulties of forgiving but never forgetting.”
Speakers from SAHA, Rwandan High Commission and Consitution Hill at the documentary screening.
Find out more about the other "Battle Against Forgetting" #TRC20 events taking place in April & May 2016
Find out more about the next screening taking place: Indians can't fly
Find out more about SAHA's TRC Collections
Visit the SAHA / SABC Truth Commission Special Report website to explore audiovisual records of the TRC public hearings
Find out more about Constitution Hill