How to rebuild a life after becoming a victim of both an acid attack and a hit-and-run? The survival story of Deus from Uganda.
”Everything changed.” Deus Twesigye from Uganda was leaving for work one morning in 2010 when his ex-girlfriend threw acid on him. The long recovery process got even more burdensome when his leg was amputated due to a motorcycle accident in 2014. How does it feel to rebuild your identity and life? How to become a part of society again if you can’t get a job because of your looks or inability to move? When you are blamed for becoming a victim or when it’s hard to get justice? Does a human being has any other value than their physical appearance? A Burning Voice combines Deus’ dance and movement, voice-over and poem, music, abstract images and images of everyday life into a multilayered film, exploring different sides of surviving violence. Dance surpasses spoken language and intellectual processes, going straight to the emotions. The motion scenes, filmed in a blackbox studio, symbolise Deus’ inner world and his emotional experiences.
The movement starts with ”a fall” to the floor level. After the first shock, he starts moving, exploring the space which gradually becomes larger. Finally there’s more to see than darkness, Deus can leave the space and go back to the outside world. In the meditative scenes of everyday life Deus gradually becomes part of his environment: first at home, then on his home street and finally on the busy street of downtown Kampala.
The story begins with the acid attack and the story arc follows the phases of traumatic crisis: shock phase, reaction phase, processing phase and reorientation phase. The movie explores the different stages of surviving violence. From hiding and bitterness to seeking understanding. From accepting yourself to taking the first step back to society, getting justice and returning to independent life. Deus writes poems and loves action movies, he has found inner peace and pursues his dreams again. Life is not easy but it goes on. Deus’ biggest wish is that he would be accepted the way he is.
”I’ve recovered, I’ve healed.”
The trauma of acid violence survivors is there for everyone to see. They are mirrors to their environment, raising difficult questions. Am I brave enough to see, to encounter? What is the meaning of looks, what is considered beautiful? I’m interested in the complexity of acid violence and how it’s used as an instrument of power. There are many reasons behind acid attacks but the purpose seems to be the same: to destroy someone’s life. The tragedy of one person affects their friends and family, work and the whole society, unveiling the general attitude towards the value of a human being. The victims easily become invisible in the society, as if the destroyed looks were infectious. There’s even victim-blaming, as in Deus’ case. But as a survivor of raw violence, he can teach a lot about the attitude towards life and how we should relate to people with different physical and mental disabilities. Deus’s sense of humour, down-to-earth attitude and his courage and ability to throw himself into dance are an inspiration to us all.
The body remembers things the mind has shut off. The body can tell about things which have no words. The body speaks in the language of movement, dance and bodily presence. These were the things we explored and worked on together with Deus, the protagonist of the movie A Burning Voice. I was the choreographer and a kind of a bodily interviewer. We tried to find what the body had to say. Deus was surprised how well he could do the motion exercises, despite losing his leg in an accident. Each and every one of us can dance. The dance can start with the eyes looking or with the chest breathing.