We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families:

February 19, 2009


We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families:

Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

written by Meredith Kooi


“There is a novel,” he went on. “The book is Wuthering Heights. You get me? This is my larger theory. It doesn’t matter if you are white or yellow or green or a black African Negro. The concept is Homo sapiens. The European is at an advanced technological state, and the African is at a stage of technology that is more primitive. But all humanity must unite together in the struggle against nature. This is the principle of Wuthering Heights. This is the mission of Homo sapiens. Do you agree?”

I said, “I hear you.”

“Humanity’s struggle to conquer nature, the pygmy said fondly. “It is the only hope. It is the only way for peace and reconciliation—all humanity one against nature.”

He sat back in his chair, with his arms crossed over his chest, and went silent.

After a while, I said, “But humanity is a part of nature, too.”

“Exactly,” the pygmy said. “This is exactly the problem.”

Genocide. Extinction. Death. All truths. Where is the hope? Where does the tragedy end? When does the fear cease?

I found myself taking tickets (wearing a monkey mask!) for Deke Weaver’s Prehensile Tales Monkey this past weekend at The Station Theatre in Urbana. The opening of the performance coincides with Darwin’s 200th birthday, so it seems almost natural to talk about monkeys. The performance, with choreographer Jennifer Allen is an intermingling of video, sound, and different stories and narratives all told by Deke.

He opens the performance with extinct monkeys. He writes on chalkboards the names of monkeys, and erases, with the chime of a bell, the ones that have become extinct. He presents a powerpoint slideshow of monkeys, telling stories that seem to describe their experience. He tells us about monkey traps, adding that we need to “Open your hand. Let the treasure go. You can’t have everything.” (What does this mean? You can’t have everything? What is everything?)

Deke tells us more stories. Stories of ancient monkey armies. Stories of genocide – the Lost Boys of Sudan. He tells us a story of a woman searching for orangutans and peace. Then, of her husband, a traveling sales man waiting at the airport, arriving home, and seeing her, his wife. Deke takes us through time and space, interweaving stories that, at first, seem completely unrelated. We find later on that they are all narratives of struggle, of genocide, of extinction, and then of hope.

His stories remind me of the We wish to inform you – an intermingling of stories of struggle, genocide, extinction, and a smidgen of hope. Where is the struggle? Is it really us against nature like the pygmy in the book says? Or is it a struggle against ourselves? Is it a struggle against both?



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