Genocide Survivor as Witness and Archive: Rupert Bazambanza’s book, Smile through the Tears: The Story of the Rwandan Genocide (2005).
Scholarship on African genocide by African scholars is still in its infancy. Spurred by studies on the Holocaust, African creative writers are slowly but increasingly rendering narratives of African genocide through their fiction. Steadily, new insights are being generated about the banality and evil that surround genocide in an African context and about the harms it causes. However, the original arguments that once made writing about genocide and the pain it inflicts a taboo, appear to continue to haunt the discipline of writing. First, there is the tendency to look down upon the act of writing about genocide experiences, the pretext being that it is in the nature of narrative to distort the density implied in the existential threat to humanity that genocide poses. Second, some literature of atrocity scholars are convinced that human beings who have not experienced genocide first hand are unable to live or even vicariously recreate the agony that genocide survivors experienced and might be able to relate. From this perspective, a genocide canon seems to have been authorised in which it is suggested that only survivors of genocide can produce authentic accounts of the pain that those who died went through. In recent times, critics and creative writers, some of whom are survivors, have challenged the idea of an absolute narrative of genocide by a survivor as the only true bearer of genocide pain and resistance to it. This article explores the panoply of meanings that a genocide survivor, Rupert Bazambanza, gives formal composition to through the genre of cartoon. The article argues that a genocide survivor is an embodiment of a witness and an archive of the experiences of someone who has survived and can tell the stories of the self and also of others who perished.
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