‘Music and the Politics of the Past: Kizito Mihigo’s Story and Music in Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.’

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Abstract

After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the post-genocide government spearheaded the creation
of genocide commemorations. Over the past two decades, political elites and survivors’ organizations have
gone to great lengths to institutionalize the memorialization, including creating laws to protect the memory
of the genocide from denialism. Ordinary Rwandans have responded to the annual commemorations using
creative means of support for and disagreement with the government’s interpretation of their shared violent
past. Music has been used as citizen-driven tool to both spread and criticize genocide memorialization
nationally and beyond. While scholars have explored the politicization of state-organized mechanisms such
as memorials, citizen-driven creative means remain largely unexplored. Addressing this gap in Rwandan
memory scholarship, I examine how Kizito Mihigo, a famous post-genocide musician, used his individual
memory of surviving the genocide against the Tutsi through music to contribute and respond to the
annual commemorations of the genocide. I argue that Mihigo’s story and commemoration songs were
politicized from the start but were intensified when he used his music to go beyond promoting genocide
commemorations to questioning the events and when he pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalMemory Studies
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2019

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