The New Times (Kigali)

8 November 2012

Rwandan Women Drummers Win Global Award

Photo: IRIN
Drumming for dancers (file photo).

Ingoma Nshya Dance Troupe that comprises survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and relatives of genocide perpetrators is among the winners of this year's Common Ground Awards.

The group, which is based in Huye district, was recognised for breaking cultural lines in winning the award that is given by Search for Common Ground, an international organisation.

"Serving as role models for women survivors, theirs is an inspirational story of women empowerment, the healing of the wounds of Genocide, and of finding joy and hope," a statement from Search for Common Ground says.

Ingoma Nshya boasts of the first women group as drummers, yest again breaking the cultural barrier, as it was historically seen as taboo for women to drum.

The group's founder, Odile Gakire Katese said; "in a country full of pain and grief, I chose to bring life, and I chose to bring joy."

The Common Ground Awards were presented at a ceremony held at the Carnegie Institution for Science yesterday in Washington, DC.

The awards are presented annually by Search for Common Ground to honour outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community and peace building.

Recipients have made significant contributions toward bridging divides between people, finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and providing inspiration and hope where often there was none.

Among other recipients is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia), former US President Jimmy Carter, antiapartheid activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali, Sesame Workshop and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

In his remarks, the organisation's president and founder, John Marks said; "In a world where adversarial behaviour is so prevalent, we honour people who build bridges and resolve conflict."

"These are our heroes, and it feels wonderful to celebrate them."

According to Marks, Sweet Dreams, the newly released documentary film about Ingoma Nshya story, was screened at the United Nations to an audience of 400 people, and was featured in Maryland's Silver Docs Film Festival.

Sweet Dreams also happens to be the name of the ice cream made at a parlour owned by the troupe.

The film follows the remarkable story of these women as they emerge from the devastation of the genocide to create a new future for themselves as Rwanda's first female drumming troupe, and as they open and run Rwanda's first ice cream shop.

The women staff the store and share equally in the business.

Bound together by loss and necessity, the organisers say, these inspirational women are creating a space where female Rwandan artists can be free to develop their creativity as they work together towards the goals of preserving traditional culture while building a livelihood that will benefit all Rwandans.

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