Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

A Linguistic Reading of the Metaphor of Genocide in Hotel Rwanda

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

A Linguistic Reading of the Metaphor of Genocide in Hotel Rwanda

Article excerpt


Historical films on Africa are few and far between when viewed against the backdrop of many social upheavals that plague the continent. One such film is Hotel Rwanda, based on the Rwanda genocide of 1994. The film is set in Sabana Hotel des Milles Collines. The article focuses on the theme of genocidal acts that include amongst others violent destruction of lives and property, and systematic rape of Tutsi females by Hutu extremists. The theoretical underpinning of this study is Systemic Functional Grammar as espoused by M.A.K. Halliday (2004). The article examines how the producer of Hotel Rwanda manipulates the resources of language at the levels of syntax and lexis to highlight the distortions created in Rwanda by the genocide. It also discusses how rhetorical devices are employed to illuminate the large number of deaths, rapes and other abnormalities in Rwanda. The article concludes that genocidal acts should be prevented in Africa due to their deleterious effects.


Historiese rolprente oor Afrika is dun gesaai wanneer die menige sosiale euwels wat die vasteland beleef in ag geneem word. Een sodanige rolprent is Hotel Rwanda wat op die menseslagting in Rwanda in 1994 gebaseer is. Die rolprent speel hom af in die Sabana Hotel des Milles Collines. Die artikel fokus op dade van menseslagting wat die moedswillige vernietiging van lewe en eiendom, en die stelselmatige verkragting van Tutsi-vrouens deur Hutu-ekstremiste insluit. Die teoretiese raamwerk van hierdie studie is gebaseer op Sistemiese Funksionele Grammatika wat deur M.A.K. Halliday (2004) voorgestaan word. Die artikel ondersoek hoe die vervaardiger van Hotel Rwanda die taalhulpbronne ten opsigte van sintaksis en woordeskat manipuleer om die verwringing wat deur die menseslagting in Rwanda geskep is, te beklemtoon. Daar is ook 'n bespreking oor hoe retoriese middels aangewend word om die groot getal sterftes, verkragtings en ander onreelmatighede in Rwanda te belig. Die artikel kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat dade van menseslagting, weens hulle verwoestende uitwerking, in Afrika vermy moet word.


The biggest genocide that the world has seen since World War II took place in Rwanda from April to June 1994 (Prunier 1995). Harff (2003) observes that as many as 22 million non-combatants have been killed in nearly 50 genocides and politicides and that genocides and politicides are usually violent and one-sided unlike civil wars.

Despite historical incidents that could provide the film producer with raw materials, no indigenous film-maker has been able to creatively transform these into film. The foreign film producer, noticing this, has taken advantage of African tales that tell us what is true or not true of Africans in Africa.

Ibagere (2007/2008: 10) notes that "[h]istory films are quite few. One wonders why Nigerian film makers have chosen not to dwell on such relevant areas like the Nigeria civil war which offers an inexhaustible range of creative stories". Even Shaka contends that

[f]or a film to qualify as an African film, the film maker must be African by birth or naturalisation ... its primary audience must be African, and this must be inscribed in the very conception and textual position of the broad range of African subjects, identities and social experiences and its director must be an African.

(Shaka 2004: 28)

The ability of a film producer to commit to film a known historical event of national and international concern like civil war, genocide, natural disaster and economic crisis is known as the recreation of history through film. Some historical films based on events in Africa include the films based on the apartheid policy in South Africa: Cry Freedom (1987), Sarafina (1992) and Tears of the Sun (2003). The Last King of Scotland (2006) is based on the tyrannical reign of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Two films based on the historical antecedent of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 are Sometimes in April and Hotel Rwanda. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.