The Fellows


 Nicholas Kotei Djanie


   Lena Slachmuijlder

Drumming and Reconciliation in Rwanda, Burundi, and South Africa

Touch of the Drums by Nicholas Kotei Djanie

In this portfolio, Ghanaian master drummer, dancer, teacher, and performer Nicholas Djanie writes that drumming "offers an embodied experience of the interconnectedness of all people." The portfolio explores that experience of interconnectedness-an experience that begins not with words, but with the breath and the heartbeat-and describes how powerful it can be in helping people who have been alienated from one other to envision themselves as working toward a common goal. Appropriately, this portfolio asks us to use our senses along with our intellects, to understand the conciliatory power of the drum by looking at images and listening to musical clips, as well as by reading about Nicholas's experiences and the theoretical framework that underlies them. The photographs and video clips in this portfolio remind us that the focused presence, the collaboration, and the enlivening playfulness that are part of drumming must be felt, not merely talked about, to be understood

The Rhythm of Reconciliation by Lena Slachmuijlder

While serving as director of Studio Ijambo, Search for Common Ground's radio station in Bujumbura, Lena Slachmuijlder gathered testimony from dozens of drummers. In Burundi and South Africa, among other places, drummers spoke about the power of drumming to create feelings of equanimity in the aftermath of loss and to sustain relationships across ethnic divisions. By presenting and giving context to the voices of these drummers, this paper brings to life the notion that people who have suffered through violence and trauma can receive singular benefits from a nonverbal and non-narrative mode of self-expression, and from the focused whole-bodied participation that many art forms both elicit and demand. Lena describes and reflects on the role of drumming circles in Burundi, which served as social spaces in which Hutu and Tutsi drummers could communicate and co-create even during that country's most violent years. In many cases, a drummer's identity as a drummer became more salient, more important to his sense of self-esteem, than his ethnic identity. Lena concludes by proposing a new annual reconciliation ritual in Burundi in which drumming would play a central role.