3 big ideas:
- Genocide is not a random act of violence on a large scale; genocide is a planned, systematic and focused act consciously delivered on a specific and targeted group of people
- There are many crucial lessons to be learned and they have significant educational implications – e.g. how does genocide occur; what factors and circumstances allow it; what the roles of government and the broader society are (and could be) and what of the role of ‘ordinary people’
Art is a particularly useful and insightful DE methodology for exploring an issue such as this
We made extensive use of the internet to research and ‘shape’ the project (particularly http://genocidewatch.org and the work of Gregory Stanton; http://www. hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html and the work of Alex De Waal, Elizabeth Neuffer and Rakiya Omar)
Materials used to manufacture the 8 Stages of Genocide mural included 8 large plywood boards; tracing paper, paint, pens, overhead projects, scissors, glue, measuring tape, access to computers, access to stimulus material on Genocide (videos, posters, statistics, interviews, audio tapes etc.)
We had worked with Alternatives on a number of projects focused on identity, flags and conflict and we had also worked with school groups on conflict and on Northern Ireland. We were interested to ‘apply’ this work to the 2004 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. We identified an agreed location (Presentation College, Bray) and a specific timeframe when the participants could be ‘free’ from their youth and school ‘normal agenda’ commitments.
- The First Layer - we decided to include 3 pieces of important information - places in which genocide and mass killing occurred (or are alleged to have occurred); the dates of such events and the methods used in killing (note that we used the active rather than the passive tense). Some of the dates and places are clearly highly controversial and are hotly contested. For example, the treatment of Aboriginal Australians in the history of that country is a matter of current political debate and potential legal action; the question of the Armenians in 1915 - 1917 (and now a highly political issue in the United States as well as in Turkey) and, of course, the inclusion of Northern Ireland.
- The Second layer - approached the question of imagery - the traditional image of genocide is that of a mass of skulls - nothing was debated more in the entire project than the use, number and presentation of the skulls (other images were painted originally, subsequently rejected and painted over).
- The Third layer - in the mural is represented by the survivors’ testimonies - hand-written on the mural - everyone associated with the project was invited to find and include a testimony. This layer represents our attempt to ‘humanise’ the issue of genocide and killing.
- The Fourth and final layer - includes the eight stages of genocide as identified by Gregory Stanton - this represents the ‘analytical layer’ of the mural (see www.genocidewatch.org) and is the one around which most ‘learning’ was done. Three years on, we decided to revisit and update the mural to carry on the learning and to reflect the current debate around genocide in Darfur. We also wanted to use the mural (and its accompanying resource) to raise awareness amongst others and to stimulate action on the issue.
Each participant also agreed to identify a testimony from someone involved in a genocide in some way and to write their ‘story’ on the mural directly.
- There was very considerable interest in studying the genocide in Rwanda and elsewhere but there was also very considerable opposition to applying that learning and its lessons to Ireland
- Participants were genuinely shocked to learn and reflect on the 8 stages approach to the topic, especially the early stages and the final stage of denial; see http://www.genocidewatch. org/genocide/8stagesofgenocide.html
- The process of layering the mural (where different elements of the issues are ‘painted’ over each other while remaining visible in some measure) is a complex way of visualising the process of genocide and art is a particularly effective medium with which to work; see http://www. developmenteducation.ie/issues-and- topics/genocide/why-study.html
- The specific learning was identifiable amongst participants; see http://www. developmenteducation.ie/issues-and- topics/genocide/quotes.html
- That we can experience revulsion and yet be inspired
- So that we realise that ordinary people are capable of horrific violence (and heroism)
- That the issue cannot be left to governments and international bodies alone to deal with
- That the promotion and protection of human rights is vital
- That specific interventions such as the International Criminal Court are fundamental to the
- rule of law - and of morality
- That education against genocide is a fundamental (if insufficient) instrument of prevention, etc.
- As has been pointed out - ‘what we learn from history is that we do not learn from history’.