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.
In the first instance, a refugee camp is a safe place from war and persecution. But it is also a place of dependency on international organizations, of unemployment and frustrations, of misery and stigmatization. With the Poetry project I am a refugee, but… young talents from refugee camps in Rwanda, together with poets from Kigali, joined each other in a space of creativity and freedom – the freedom to dream who they want to be, and to imagine a life of tolerance and understanding, the freedom also to say who they are: Yes, I am a refugee, but I am still Dinah.
Dinah is from the Nyabiheke Refugee Camp, one of six camps on Rwandan territory with around 160,000 persons, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Using Arts/Poetry as a humanitarian intervention, Transpoesis has trained youth in poetry and Dinah was among the participant of the programme.
The one-year programme culminated in the performance I am a refugee, but… As a fusion of music and poetry, it went on stage at the International Arts Festival, Ubumuntu, in Kigali on 14h July, 2019.
The poets expressed the stereotypes within the society about being refugees, and spoke out about their strengths:
“We are not the result of our circumstances, but of our choices. Though we appear vulnerable, we have beautiful destinations. And in the end, we survive a tough history. We our uniqueness.”
For the audience, the performance can be a mirror to think about our fears: what if I lose everything? We are reminded about the fragility of home and of belonging.
The performance raises questions: Where is home? Is it a place? Or is home made of experiences, of friends? Is it a memory or a smile? One young man, wisely, said: “If one day I will leave the camp, I will also miss my life in the camp.”
Home is therefore a story that we can tell, the story we are made of.