Rwandan writer and activist Gakire Katese Odile "Kiki" takes the stage with Ingoma Nshya, the Women Drummers of Rwanda, to share stories of life, loss, and recovery. Based on Katese’s years-long project of accumulating letters written by survivors and perpetrators of Rwanda’s genocide, “The Book of Life” brings its message of hope to the Moss Arts Center on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m.

Filled with personal narratives, stirring shadow puppetry, and joyous live drumming from eight professional percussionists, “The Book of Life” leads audience members on a remarkable journey of unlocking life after trauma and finding a humane way forward.   

As Katese writes, “We still have the possibility of undoing the genocide in some small way, to bridge the hole that’s been left, not with bones or the clothes they wore when they died — but with their lives. The dinners. The lovers. The dates. The joy. How do we undo the un-undoable? We let them live again.”

In 2004, Katese created the first-ever Rwandan female drumming ensemble. Ingoma Nshya is a visionary grassroots project with multiple goals — healing, reconciliation, women’s social and financial empowerment, and artistic excellence. For the women, the group has been a place to begin to live again, to build new relationships, to heal the wounds of the past. Now a company of professional drummers — together, they are a potent symbol of a society’s ability to heal, move forward, and create hope.

Related engagement events

Pre-performance talk: “The Rwandan Genocide and ‘Macabresque’

Tuesday, Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.

Third Floor Balcony Lobby

Nearly 30 years since the genocide in Rwanda, questions remain about the performativity of perpetrators’ violations and what survivors are left with, culturally and personally. Join Edward Weisband, author of “The Macabresque: Human Violation and Hate in Genocide, Mass Atrocity, and Enemy-Making” and the Edward S. Diggs Endowed Chair in the Department of Political Science, before the performance for a reflection on the question of how life must be lived in the presence of absence. Free, but registration is required.


Post-performance Q&A

Tuesday, Sept. 26, following the performance

Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre

Join the performers from “The Book of Life” for this public dialogue on the production’s development and impact.

School-day performance: “Ingoma Nshya: The Women Drummers of Rwanda”

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 10-11 a.m.

Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre

The Moss Arts Center also will host a free school-day performance, “Ingoma Nshya: The Women Drummers of Rwanda,” for area public, private, and homeschool students. Recommended for students in grades 7-12.

Katese and members of Ingoma Nshya will participate in several events with Virginia Tech students, including drumming workshops and discussions about the historical context of the drumming ensemble and “The Book of Life” as an arts-based response to the Rwandan genocide.

Virginia Tech staff participating in Culture and Context Through the Arts, a diversity education program jointly facilitated by the Moss Arts Center and Office for Inclusion and Diversity, will attend the performance and engage in a conversation about intercultural understanding.

Founder and President of the Human Rights and Justice Foundation Jason Nshimye will speak with high school students about his experience of the Rwandan genocide and his subsequent efforts to support victims and encourage others to strive for forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation.


Tickets for the performance are $30 for general admission and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours. 

Venue and parking information

The performance and master class will be held in the center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. Free parking is available for Moss Arts Center patrons in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street beginning one hour prior to the performance. Find more parking details online.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Jamie Wiggert at least 10 days prior to the event at 540-231-5300 or email during regular business hours. 

Support for the performance

Support for this performance is provided by the Deborah L. Brown Center for the Arts Excellence Fund. The event is co-sponsored by the Black Cultural Center.

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