CultureGenocide 100

State of Denial: New play links Armenian Genocide to that in Rwanda

Rahul-VarmaMontreal’s Teesri Duniya Theatre is presenting its offering directed by Liz Valdez and written by playwright Rahul Varma. The play is called State of Denial and explores a very painful and often forgotten part of the history in the 20th century, the Montreal Rampage reports.

The play links the Turkish-denied Armenian genocide of 1915 with the 1995 genocide in Rwanda, connecting them through the Canadian diaspora experience. When Odette, a Rwandan-born Canadian filmmaker, travels to Turkey to investigate stories of genocide and hidden identity, she interviews Sahana, an elderly and respected Muslim woman who has devoted her life to assisting Armenian survivors. On her deathbed, Sahana confesses a chilling secret that challenges a long-standing state of denial that Odette promises to make public at any personal cost.

In the words of the Director Liz Valdez, “This is incredibly important at a time when we all seem to be so aware and informed, and yet here are these moments in history that most people don’t know anything about. Moments that actually lead to other moments in history. The truth that I had no idea of the similarities between what happened in Turkey in 1915-18 and the holocaust. How? Why? How did we not see it happening again when Hitler came to power? And since then, happening over and over in different horrific ways and for different reasons.”

“History has been written by victors who have the power to exclude what they do not wish the public to know. So learning about history is important, but history constitutes the background – the research that goes on is about peoples’ lives. Learning what history did to people tells us more about history,” playwright Rahul Varma (founder of Teesri Duniya Theatre) said in an interview with Sinj Karan of the Montreal Rampage.

“If we had learned from the Armenian genocide, we may have prevented the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda and many other genocides,” he said.

“Today, the role of an artist is not to revisit history but to allow the public to learn important lessons from it, so horrible acts of history are not repeated. State of Denial is presented to draw attention to, and the elevation of, human misery and to create a world of diminished violence,” the playwright said.

The fictional State of Denial is derived from multiple true stories from the research project, Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and other Human Rights Violations housed at Concordia University. Varma affirms, “The stories of elsewhere are Canadian stories affecting all citizens. They go beyond biography and facts, revealing truth while instigating further inquiry. My aim is to address global issues locally.”

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