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Fourth annual conference links peacemaking with arts

Genocide survivor, activist shares personal experience

Posted: January 15, 2009 11:00 p.m.
Updated: January 16, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Genocide survivor and activist Jean de Dieu Mucyo speaks at a coffee house on the campus of the California Institute of the Arts Thursday afternoon.

Inside a dimly lit room at the California Institute of the Arts coffeehouse, a small crowd listened Thursday to Jean de Dieu Mucyo discuss the perils of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

"When you look at how genocide happened, no one should be able to deny it," said Mucyo, an activist and genocide survivor.

Speaking in Kinyarwanda, his native tongue, Mucyo analyzed the implications of a genocide.

"Denial is the next step after genocide," he said through a translator. "Genocide starts from its own ideology. It starts from racism. That's how it happened in Rwanda."

Mucyo recalled instances of people being called "cockroaches" and "snakes," saying that genocide never occurs by "chance."

Mucyo's talk came during CalArts' fourth annual "Arts in One World" conference that brought together activists, peacemakers and artists to address the global struggles in Rwanda, Palestine and Kurdistan.

The theme of this year's conference is motherhood and revolution.

The five-day conference, which runs at the Valencia art institute and is open to the community, connects to "The More Life: Cultural Studies and Genocide Initiative," a collaboration between CalArts and the Interdisciplinary Genocide Study Center in Rwanda.

The conference capitalizes on activism and the arts.

"The arts can teach community and hope when those are both under assault," said Erik Ehn, dean of the CalArts School of Theater. "We want to demonstrate that the arts are materially useful."

The conference lasts for less than a week, but it doesn't stop the need for the arts' involvement in world problems.

"The essential idea is that this is not an event, but a process and it's a window onto a conversation that means to be ongoing," Ehn said. "It's not an object and it's not finite. It's part of a stream of energy that's dedicated toward directing arts toward peacemaking."

Before Mucyo's talk, Brooke Sparling of Venice Beach was looking forward to the learning opportunities at the conference.

Sparling earned a master's in public health at UCLA and recently spent a year in Cameroon through Peace Corps.

An artist, Sparling considers it rare to find classes and a conference focused on international activism and the arts.

"I love any combination of the two," she said Thursday.


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