Caution – doors are now closing. This pithy phrase, oft-repeated on trains, aptly describes our reality today. With the spread of coronavirus, international travel is shuddering to a halt. Borders are swinging shut. In March, Canada closed its borders to international arrivals with the belated exception of non-essential American citizens. Caution – borders are now closing. Mind the gap!
Listen: Our forefathers ate this meal in Egypt at night, in urgency, staff in hand, screams of grief ringing through the land. They ate matzah, roasted lamb and bitter herbs. What is matzah? Dry, flat pieces of unleavened bread. Now we lift the matzah high, recite: This is the bread of affliction / which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. / Let all those who are hungry come and eat with us . . . / This year we are still slaves. / Next year may we all be free.
One deep breath, then pull open the wooden door. That’s all it takes to slip into another world. The wooden door swings shut behind me and my senses are flooded: sunlight, incense, curved arches, candles, pastel icons, voices chanting in harmony, embroidered robes rustling. I forget to breathe in the thickness of the air. It is my first time in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. I am overwhelmed. I am amazed. I am uncomfortable.
It was fitting that he was in Panzi hospital on October 5, finishing the second surgical operation of the day, when Dr. Denis Mukwege heard the noise of people crying and celebrating outside. He had just won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize alongside Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist.
In 1999 Dr. Mukwege opened Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today, more than 50,000 rape survivors and more than 80,000 girls and women with complex gynecological injuries have been treated at Panzi hospital, and Dr. Mukwege is considered the world’s leading expert on repairing injuries from rape.
In refusing to see our true colours, we become blind to the hurt we cause others. That’s how colonialism begins.
“Unwanted pregnancies” are not the problem as much as unwanted wars, unwanted famines, unwanted rape, unwanted incest and unwanted displacement. Mama Rebecca didn’t weep because her children ought not to have been born. She wept because they ought not to have died.
That’s how my three month internship in the ethnoarts started — with a music composition workshop in the small village of Mapedi. “Ethnoarts” is one word that encompasses all the specific ways a people has for expressing themselves or communicating.