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CalArts Launches Sister Library in Kigali, Rwanda

Los Angeles, August 28—Proving that the arts can facilitate diplomacy, reconciliation and education, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Southern California has opened its sister library in Kigali, Rwanda. For the last four years, the More Life: Cultural Studies and Genocide Initiative, a project of the CalArts School of Theater and the Interdisciplinary Genocide Study Center (IGSC) of Kigali, Rwanda and Berkeley, California, have sponsored an on-going series of international exchanges and collaborations ranging from new works of theater to international conferences. CalArts’ sister library, which opened this August, is the Initiative’s most recent endeavor.

Developed by CalArts Performing Arts Librarian Kathy Carbone, the library focuses on the Tutsi genocide of 1994 and related issues ranging from peace building to activist theater practice. It is housed at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali and will move with the Rwandan National Commission Against Genocide to a newly constructed facility in Kigali in September.  In addition to its brick and mortar iteration, the library’s catalog and collection of on-line publications can be accessed from any location via the Internet.

"What we are doing with these particular spatial and virtual environments,” said Ms. Carbone, “is creating relationships, social vitality, and community. With the energy and support of our friends, families and colleagues we are creating a ‘place’ that can stand in opposition to what genocide does: destroy relationships, social vitality and community."

This interdisciplinary research library provides a growing collection of books, journals, DVDs and electronic resources covering subjects ranging from history, sociology, drama, literature and linguistics to theology, philosophy, poetry, visual art, education, social ethics and conflict resolution. It houses 15 computers and encourages and facilitates interdisciplinary research. Alice Badege, a volunteer and IGSC member, oversees the space.

The library is also intended to be a social/community center in Kigali, offering a gathering place where survivors can meet and record testimonies, writers and artists can present work and scholars can convene to share a public platform for their ideas.

Ms. Carbone manages the library remotely from CalArts with the aid of the on-line system, Apollo, created and donated to the library by Biblionix. This automated system allows her to track the ordering, receiving, and invoicing of materials; catalog, classify and index; handle circulation functions such as tracking the lending of materials to patrons and receiving returns, and putting items on reserve.

The More Life: Cultural Studies and Genocide Initiative began in 2004 when CalArts School of Theater dean Eric Ehn and IGSC director Jean-Pierre Karegeye organized an exchange trip to Rwanda for students, teachers and human rights activists. Since then, a network of committed theater professionals, activists, writers, historians, politicians and students from around the world has coalesced around its international exchanges.

These annual exchange programs between Africa and the United States mark the progress of the More Life Initiative. Each summer, students from a range of schools, along with professional artists, travel to Rwanda and Uganda to study the Rwandan genocide in context of the history and current interests of the region. The goal is to explore practical ways art can contribute to processes of recovery and peace building. For the U. S. based portion of the exchange, CalArts hosts the Arts in the One World conference. The conference brings together theater professionals from Europe, America and the African Diaspora, international human rights activists, writers, historians and students to confront the repercussions of genocidal conflicts and explore the intersection of human rights activism and cultural practice.

The nation's first art institute to offer BFA and MFA degrees in both the visual and performing arts, CalArts is dedicated to training and nurturing the next generation of professional artists, fostering innovation within the broadest context possible. Emphasis is placed on new and experimental work and students are accepted solely on the basis of artistic ability. To encourage experimentation, CalArts' six schools--Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater--are all housed under one roof in a five-story building with the equivalent of 11 acres of square footage in Valencia, California, 30 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles.

Last edited by Smith on Aug 25, 2010
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