After Elisée Niyonsenga lost his mother and siblings in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 he found new hope by setting up an acrobatic troupe. He speaks to Veronica Stivala ahead of his visit to Malta this week.
“It was like a very dark nightmare and it still feels like a heavy burden on my shoulders to think that my little brother does not even know what his mother looked like. This is too heavy for me and I can’t think about it without shedding tears.”
There are no words for the unspeakable atrocities that took place during the genocidal mass slaughter that left an estimated one million Rwandans killed during the 100 days between April and mid-July 1994, among them Elisée Niyonsenga’s family members.
Niyonsenga was still a child at the time and found himself living aimlessly on the streets. But it was a performance by contemporary circus act Cirque du Soleil he came upon that changed his life.
“It was like a new door had been opened for me,” recalls Niyonsenga. So impressed was he by what he saw that he started practising, together with another friend on the beach, trying to emulate what he had seen.
“It was the only way I could find happiness and to feel open and relaxed. It helped me escape the pain, laugh for a short while and temporarily forget what had happened,” he comments.
Niyonsenga went on to found the Future Vision Acrobat (FVA), through which he teaches the sport to children to help them find new hope. It was the same joy he discovered through acrobatics that he wanted to pass on to other children: “Through acrobatics I made new friends, I found myself laughing and smiling again,” he explains.
One thing led to another and soon children wanted to join. “We felt like real trainers because it did work and soon more and more members started joining,” says Niyonsenga proudly. And more than trainers, he felt like he had started a family, a “house of joy and peace”. Having created this space for a “peaceful mind and true love”, Niyonsenga found himself one step closer to realising his dream of building a circus school in Rwanda…
Read the Full Article at Times of Malta