Andrea Grieder is a poet and social anthropologist. She is the founder and director of Transpoesis, an organization based in Rwanda with the aim to empower through Poetry. Originally from Switzerland, she has a PhD from the University of Zurich and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. She is the Head of Department in Social Sciences and a lecturer at the University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB), Rwanda.
Doing a poetry training in Nyabiheke Refugee Camp, Rwanda
I woke up in the morning
And without thinking
I write in my notebook, the pink one dedicated to poetry:
“Today I get a lift home”
I somehow forgot about this sentence during the day, working with secondary school students living in the Camp,
on metaphors and symbols, as an intuitive power of self-expression.
Refugee camps create an absurd reality of a separated universe within a society, which only can be visited with the permission of the Ministry of Emergency Management. Every time we, as Transpoesis, do poetry trainings or competitions in one of the six refugee camps in Rwanda, we are reminded to leave the camp at 5 p. m.
Refugee camps create a temporary home for victims of violence and terror but also employ a barrier that separates the inside and the outside. We do our poetry work inside to create a bridge built by the talent and words of the creative mind.
One of the camp poets describes a refugee as a person without arms and legs, with no brain: speaking about unlived potential, the impossibility of using one’s capacities in the realisation of dreams. Another poet chooses the lion heart as his symbol, to speak about someone strong and powerful, but with a generous heart using his strength to do good.
During the poetry competition in the camp, we hear the poem, I Am A Flower Of Hope. The poet there expressed powerfully the need to flourish in hope and to find a garden where flowers can be seen and grow.
My day had started with the sentence: “Today I get a lift home.”
Later on that
day, a UNHCR worker told me that a car is – maybe
– leaving for Byumba, that home of mine, where I was supposed to attend a
conference the next day. I hesitated in joining them because of that
“maybe”, the fear of not reaching home at all. So I choose the
tiresome road by bus via Kigali, capital of Rwanda.
Instead of an hour and thirty minutes, I ended up spending six hours on the road. What made me even more exhausted that day was not the six hour journey really but my anger of having ignored that inner voice that had whispered to me in the morning already. I ignored it, without knowing that the universe had made a plan for me to get home. I had been able, through intuition, to access that plan. If only my mind, and fears, would not have done sabotage to my poetic soul!
Being a poet is being able to see the magic in the universe and to follow that voice, the inner voice, the poetic guide, who knows without knowing.