20 January 2013

Rwanda: How Young Rwandans Tweet About Writing

A common complaint in cultural circles is that people in Rwanda don't read. Just look at people on the bus, even on longer distances, and you will find hardly anyone reading a book.

As a result, there are also few people who are willing to write either novels or poetry - publishing a book is expensive, and the cost is born entirely by the writer. And you can forget about making profit.

Yet a group of young people has found a way around that, making ingenious use of social media to publicize and share their writing. We present some of them.

Clo Niragire

At 30 years of age, she describes herself as "crazy of the written word and lover of literature." She has a blog, exclusively in French, that she updates regularly. She usually writes about love, couples, fashion and life in general.

"I started writing when I was six years old," she says. "I was inspired by my mom - strong and independent; she and Oprah Winfrey are my models."

She says that she's motivated by sharing what she writes on Twitter. "I actually share a lot there; my followers are important to me. I really like to discuss with them about my blog or anything else."

Niragire thinks writing is a good way to share ideas and culture - a way to communicate for the younger generation. For her, writing is a gift. "Not everyone can write, but I think they should read."

Place: Brussels, Belgium

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cloniragire, 156 followers

Web: http://niragirediary.blogspot.fr/

Fiona Kamikazi Rutagengwa

Miss Inter-University and fashion model, she became engaged in writing in 2010, but started sharing her work on Twitter in 2011. She's a blogger as well. She writes about her observations of the world as well as her feelings.

She says that she became a terrific reader when she was just a kid. And when she joined Twitter, she felt more motivated to share her writings to the world. She writes in English, French and Kinyarwanda.

"Twitter is actually the only social medium I use to share my posts, and my followers motivate me a lot. I feel special when I see them sharing what I've written," she says. "I think writing is very important because things we post on our blogs remain for our children, who will read how their parents used to view this world, their lifestyle, and their culture."

Fiona recently made headlines when she protested by posting an open letter addressed to the Ministry of Sports and Culture when the latter proposed a controversial law to ban songs that it unilaterally defined as "anti-culture" - because of the obscene language and pictures - judging musicians to be the main reason behind a cultureless community that we see today.

Place: Kigali, Rwanda

Twitter: http://twitter.com/fiona_kamikazi, 755 followers

Web: http://fionakr.wordpress.com/

Dustin Ishimwe

He's a poet and an active speaker at the Spoken Word Rwanda. His poems, written in English, French and Kinyarwanda, are usually about life. He started writing when he was only a teenager.

"I always had this kind of drive to work creatively. When I was 13, I drew comics and mostly the feedback was heartwarming," he says. "That motivated me to write plays that would be performed during special school events. It was an amazing experience. Then, I grew fond of Spoken Word and started writing poems. Although most of my poems were too intimate to be shared publicly, I kept on writing."

For Dustin, writing is important, fun, challenging and most of all therapeutic.

"Rwanda needs to heal its wounded hearts, and the most efficient way to channel one's feelings is through writings. Besides, writing is one of the ways of earning money. We need to go from oral to written culture if we want to share our knowledge worldwide."

Place: Kigali, Rwanda

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ishimwedustin, 464 followers

Web: http://thedustin.blog.com/

Eric Ngangare (Eric One-Key)

About 5 years ago, Ngangare wrote a movie script (http://bit.ly/HCVDmk) about a girl called Keza who survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda after going through indescribable physical and emotional torture. He did this for readers to explore how the fictional character copes with the aftermath of the genocide. He called it 'Wounded Innocence,' and was happy to publicly share it on his website.

The writer says that he has always written. "I remember when I was in S1; I would write a small story in French, translate it into English and then take it to my English teacher to correct it. I started publishing my writings in 2011 on Facebook then opened a blog in December the same year."

He is a poet too. He says that he was inspired to write poetry by a French poet called Grand Corps Malade. A friend had shared his album with him and when he listened to it, he felt like somebody had paved a way for him to channel his thoughts. "His voice gave me the confidence to do what I've always loved to do."

He agrees with Dustin that, due to horrible times that the country passed through, there's a need for therapy and that writing is itself a remedy.

"There's need for therapy and writing is one of the best remedies for the soul," he says. "It's also a very effective way to communicate, to tell stories. Like stains on papers, we leave marks on the minds of our readers.

"Another important thing is that Rwanda is moving very fast on the path of development, so there's a lot of material and immaterial things that disappear in the process. Writing is like capturing the present, preserving it so we can travel in time, in the future, when the present will have become the past."

Place: Kigali, Rwanda

Twitter: http://twitter.com/eric1key, 837 followers

Web: http://eric1key.blog.com/

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