Anoek Steketee, ‘Love Radio, Listeners 3, Musambira South, 8.54pm’, 2014, Flatland Gallery

April 2014 marks 20 years since almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered. Virulent hate campaigns in the media were at the heart of the genocide. On the same frequency that in 1994 incited the murder of the Tutsi ‘inyenzi’ (cockroaches), the radio soap Musekeweya today broadcasts a message of reconciliation. The soap is immensely popular, with millions tuning in to the weekly episodes.

Love Radio is a transmedia documentary about the process of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, based on the popular radio soap 'Musekeweya' (New Dawn).
It consists of a web documentary, mobile Tap stories and an exhibition.
The project straddles the thin line between fact and fiction. At first glance it tells a linear, almost fairy-tale narrative. But a closer look reveals the complex reality. While in the soap happy endings predominate, reconciliation in real life is rather more intransigent. After the gruesome killings, how can perpetrators and victims live with and love each other?

The story line in Musekeweya takes place in Muhumuro and Bumanzi, two fictional villages that hate each other’s guts. Musekeweya seems to be a fairly normal soap at first, full of romances, intrigues and villains with resounding names like Rutaganira and Zaninka. The love between Shema en Batamuriza is like a Rwandan ‘Romeo and Juliet’. But there is a major difference: the soap is supposed to do more than just entertain; it is also intended to convey to listeners how violence begins and how it can be prevented. It applies the theories of American psychologist Ervin Staub concerning the origins of group violence and
genocide. While the radio show has an idealistic premise, this project also raises some questions. Can fiction get people to reconcile? Or is this positive voice merely a veneer in a country still coping with the traumas of the genocide? And what does reconciliation actually mean? In Love Radio the complex reality emerges gradually. In addition to the radio programme’s fictional story line, the project shows the reality that Rwandans have to cope with through interviews with the soap opera’s makers and listeners.
The photographs and web documentary do not take a purely documentary approach. The camera is used not only to raise social issues, but also as a tool for the imagination. By playing with light and partially directing the subjects, alienating images emerge, with the surroundings as an gloomy stage set.
Love Radio is about violence and reconciliation, guilt and innocence, forgiving and being forgiven. But it is also about the role of the media in society, the emergence of a collective way of thinking and about scapegoating. These are universal themes that concern everyone.

Love Radio is a collaboration with journalist Eefje Blankevoort, designers Kummer & Herrman and interactive designer Sara Kolster.

About Anoek Steketee