There is nothing that challenges one’s ability to understand what it means to be human more than visiting a country that has a history of genocide and to experience the resiliency and strength of the human spirit in the nation’s collective effort to recover, heal and transform decades of conflict into sustainable peace. And that is the story of Rwanda.
Several days ago, we visited Les Enfant de Dieu, an orphanage and school for children who were forced into a life in the streets due to abandonment, abuse or neglect. There, we had the opportunity to meet with children who are discovering talents and skills that would otherwise have gone undiscovered and uncultivated. We toured the school’s art gallery, which is where I discovered this piece of art.
Created by a genocide survivor who now teaches fine arts at Les Enfant de Dieu (shown above with one of the students), the piece jumped out at me immediately. It is a bold and straightforward call for peace. But, for me, it has a deeper meaning.
The human brain is wired for survival, and, from an evolutionary perspective, our species has survived in two ways: through our innate desire for connectivity and our built-in mechanism for fight or flight. In this piece, the artist demonstrates the interconnectedness of our shared human experience. The two figures in the background are bright in color, celebratory in their physical posture and physically connected to one another. They seem to be claiming the most for their lives while celebrating their joy in experiencing life together. Yet, in front of them are violent images of war with an obvious call to end the violence.
What made this piece jump out at me is the choice it poses to the viewer: Will you choose a life that supports our collective survival, or will you choose a life that supports your own survival? Having this question posed to the viewer through the lens of a genocide survivor is powerful.
I chose to acquire this piece because I want to be aware of that question each day. At every choice point, am I choosing for us or am I choose for me? Our collective future relies on how each of us answers that question.
An international speaker, peace-building trainer and mediator, Robyn works with individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. She also works with community leaders and political and governmental leaders to develop grassroots efforts for building sustainable peace in areas of historic conflict. In this capacity, she has been featured in news outlets internationally.