Friday, 18 September 2009

Avoiding Evil: Montreal Life Histories Project and Bernard Schlink's The Reader

Life is full of coincidences. Wednesday night as I was coming home on the Metro from leading at discussion of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader at the Atwater Library, I picked up a couple of sheets of paper on the seat beside me. They announced try outs for an original musical to be called Congodrama, and which will feature a dozen or so young singers, dancers, musicians and actors.

Since I’ve been reading a lot about the Portuguese incursions into the Congo river basin, instead of throwing the sheets away I followed up on the website listed as the place to find more information. What I found was a fantastic oral history project on people whose childhoods were stolen by war and civil unrest.

Histoires de vie de Montréal/Montreal Life History project is connected with Concordia University, and is attempting to gather first hand experiences. The main efforts are on Haiti, Rwanda, the Holocaust and the Great Lakes of Africa. I haven’t had a chance to explore to far into their archives, but what they’re doing definitely deserves to be more widely known. Ally Ntumba is artist in residence with the program, and is the force behind Congodrama. According to his bio, he had much experience in theatre in Congo before arriving in Montreal in 2001. Since then he’s mounted several shows.

The flyer about Congodrama ends with a quote attributed to Edmond Burke: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Of course, one of Schlink’s themes is the long-term effects of evil, and one of his aims, it seems, is to tell of one person’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that someone he loved was a war criminal. Congodrama and the oral history project are working to the same end, and also, I dare say, to try to avoid repetitions of evil.

Photo: Village in Rwanda, from Histoires de vie's Great Lakes project

No comments: