Rwanda- The land of a thousand hills

9 Apr


My three passions in life are Women, Arica, and the arts. When I founded my Pan African talent agency, Waka Talent, in 2011, my dream was to have a footprint and synergies with territories across Africa. Rwanda was one of the countries that were in my Pan African expansion plans.
I, like many people, was awakened to the country Rwanda through the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Through the media, we were fed a few of the facts that the Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda during the Rwandan Civil War, which started in 1990. It was said to have been directed by members of the Hutu majority government during the 100-day period from 7 April to 15 July 1994. At that time in my life, I was uneducated about the history of our continent, as our educational system was based on the biased and untrue view through the eyes of the colonizers.
In 1994, I was in a relationship with a boy who was of Rwandan origin and before the brutal break-up, I was able to hear of the harrowing stories of how his family fled the country. I remember a few days, whilst visiting them in their Johannesburg home, the family were incredibly worried, as their grandmother had gone missing from her village in Rwanda but was soon discovered after walking for days, she was then brought to South Africa to live with the family. Although she did not speak English the pain and trauma in her eyes spoke volumes.
Fast forward to 2004, I was cast in one of the first films made on the genocide, Hotel Rwanda. Once again the trauma and history intrigued me.

My Rwandan experience.
The background.
Rwanda is a republic in central and eastern Africa. Uganda is to its north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Over the years, it has been reported that the capital city, Kigali is the safest city in Africa. I was rather overwhelmed at the sense of calmness and as a global citizen who has traveled to many cities, I can honestly say that I felt 100% safe, walking the streets, lying in bed or exploring in the middle of town. The streets are immaculate, the people, like the rest of East Africa, are welcoming, humble and wonderful to talk to. On my morning walks,​ I was welcomed to the magnificent landscape of rolling hills, organised traffic, Bod-Boda driver (Motorbike taxis) and as mentioned before, a wonderful​ sense​ of calmness.

On the streets of Kigali.

Since the end of the Genocide, the country has been socially and politically stable. As a result, agriculture, roads, mining, and tourism have developed. The government also placed itself as the leader in gender equality principles.

The Memrorial.
On visiting the genocide memorial, I learned many interesting facts but the one that stood out the most was the truth behind the fraction between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, facts that media have not revealed.
This is what i discovered-
Humans migrated to what is now Rwanda after the last ice age. Hunter-gatherers settled the area in the late Stone Age and were followed by early Iron Age settlers. These were ancestors of the Twa, a group of Pygmy hunters who still remain in Rwanda. Additional migrations took place between 700 BC and 1500 AD. This divided society into three groups which are the Hutu, Tutsis, and the original Twas. For centuries, these three groups live in harmony, it was only when the colonizers entered the territory, did they create the tension and hierarchy between the Hutus and Tutsis. It was in 1884, the Berlin Conference assigned Germany Ruanda-Urundi. German East Africa was then formed when this area was combined with Tanganyika. In 1894, Gustav Adolf von Gotzen explored the country. The Germans favored the Tutsi group and help suppress the Hutu group of people. During World War I, the Belgians took the territory.

It was World War I, Rwanda became a League of Nations mandate with Belgium in control. Belgium also kept the class system in place and promoted Tutsi supremacy. They also considered the groups to be different races and created identity cards labeling each person a member of the Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa group. They based this classification on arbitrary physical characteristics. This fact, sent shivers down my spine as it reminded me of the South Africa apartheid laws of classifying black people, with the pencil test.
(The pencil test is a method of assessing whether a person has Afro-textured hair. In the pencil test, a pencil is pushed through the person’s hair. How easily it comes out determines whether the person has “passed” or “failed” the test. This test was used to determine racial identity in South Africa during the apartheid era, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. The test was partially responsible for splitting existing communities and families along perceived racial lines. Its formal authority ended with the end of apartheid in 1994. It remains an important part of South African cultural heritage and a symbol of racism.)

This friction continued after World War II, here the two groups emerged and became rivals, one based on the Tutsi elite and the other based on Hutu emancipation.
This rivalry continued throughout the ages right up until the known 1994 Genocide.
My time at the memorial was traumatic as the two-hour tour gives you insight into the back history. Picture, artifacts, clothes, personal items are on display. There is also a beautiful rose garden of remembrance, where families can go and show respect to their family members and friends that were killed in the genocide. As a group, we laid a wreath on the tombs and said a prayer.

The Mashariki film festival.
Earlier this year, I reached out to the Mashariki Film festival as I wanted to create a synergy between them and my agency, They responded​ and we entered​​ into a partnership​.
I flew into​ Kigali​ for​ the festival, which​ is in its 5th edition. My agency was an official partner and I also sat on the jury for the African​ feature film category. I wanted to host an acting and producers master class but the schedule was full, so on my​ next visit in the year, I plan to see Waka Agency can work with actors and performers​ from​. They are a performance art​ and​d media company, not affiliated to the festival but have been in existence for nearly two decades. ​

– Opeing night of The festival.

The festival categories were made up of the following:
African feature films, African short films, African documentaries, East African feature films, East African short films, East African, and national short films. Each category had a team of three jury members, assigned to watch, critique and analyze each submission.
The jury groups were made up of film and industry practitioners​ from across the world. My jury included Klaus Keli​ from Germany and Kivu Ruhorahoza, from Rwanda.
Klaus, a revered filmmaker​​ educator​ , ​and trainer, who has worked extensively in Europe and has been instrumental in training in East Africa, particularly in Rwanda. Kivu is internationally known for his feature film Grey Matter which won the Jury Special Mention for Best Emerging Filmmaker at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and the Ecumenical Jury special mention at the 2011 Warsaw Film Festival. He also won the Grand Prize of the Tübingen French Film Festival, Best Director and Signis Award of the Cordoba African Film Festival and the Jury Special Prize of the Khouribga Film Festival in Morocco.

We were given the task of watching​ 12 full-length​ feature films with the aim of sourcing the best in the selection. The films submitted came from all African territories​ from South Africa,​ Kenya, Morocco​, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and others. Of the jury’s​ that I have​ sat on, I have to say that this selection was incredibly tough, the majority of the films were all high​ callibre.
After many hours of debate, deliberation, a few​ disagreements​s, we all agreed that the best film in our selection came from Morocco.

The film Indigo by Selma Bargach.
Indigo is the color blue of the aura given by a psychic to children who have the gift of clairvoyance​. This is shown through the main character, Nora. The actress, Rim Kettani is a first-time actress and is only 13 years old, she brilliantly narrated the story of a young girl who is confronted with violence and the world of the irrational.
The filmmaker​​ did an excellent​​t job in narrating the story and directing the film, creating magnificent​​t mise-en-scene and emotionally driven scenes.
We as the jury believed​ that the story has universal appeal.

The lack of gender equality.
As Rwanda has become known as one of the most gender equal territories, I was rather disappointed at the lack of representation​ of female filmmakers. On the opening night, there was very little mention of the female input to the festival, The festival has a platform titled, ‘Girls in film’. At first, this intrigued me as I saw it as a possible platform for young girls to learn the world of filmmaking, only to discover that the platform is for women who have graduated in film and working as producers and filmmakers. Another alarming incident was on the closing night, along with other jury members and delegates, both male and female, it was noted and discussed the lack of female representation in speeches, acknowledgment, and presence. The prize for the best actress was awarded by an all-male delegation and as the emcee stated the most powerful filmmakers in Rwanda. I find that worrying as there are many female filmmakers and practitioners who could have added value to that. The snide and below the belt comment from the emcee was also unwelcomed by many, it went along the lines of perhaps the actress knows each of the male representatives personally. We need to move away from that type of language. After the comment, there was an uncomfortable silence from the audience. I have brought these facts up with the organizers but being the feminist that I am,I have also made contact with local female filmmakers on how we can work together as African filmmakers and writers, so to ensure this gender disparity does not occur again. The festival has welcomed the suggestion.

Other activities.
In between my jury duties, workshop attendance and watching films, I managed to experience some of Rwandan city life. My Kenyan sister, Nyambura Waruinzi and I treated ourselves to steak at a lovely restaurant​, close to our residence. The food was delicious, ambiance​​ and decor were​ magical, a little pricey but worth the experience. When two powerful​ Africa​n female forces get together over red wine and a meal, it can only lead greatness. Watch this space for future Kenya​- SA projects​.

After our meal, we met up with our other delegates​​s for a night of dancing, laughter, ​and fun.

I also was treated to true Rwandan cuisine​, thanks to my Jury colleague, Kivu.

We had Cassava leaves known as Isombe, Chicken curry, spicy aubergine with potatoes​ and chicken​ curry, East​ African style.

On another day I had the opportunity​ of having a meeting at the Ikirezi Bookstore. This book​ store hosts a bouquet of African​ authors and hopefully will stock my book soon. The book store is close to downtown Kigali and has a spectacular view.

My love for East Africa has now been extended to Rwanda, I would like to give special thanks to my superb hosts Jean de Dieu Ngirabaganwa, the Assistant Coordinator of the festival. He is also a revered director, camera operator, ​and fixer in Rwanda. Our on the ground hosts, Mwiza Gloria, Didier Mpatha and Bingo Regis. All three ensured we were happy at all times, drove us to the necessary destinations and shared the beautiful East African hospitality. They truly made our stay a memorable one.
To my new family and friends who stayed at the same apartment compound as me as well as the other delegates, thank you for the laughs, honest conversations and for sharing delicate and beautiful stories.

When creative Africans unite.

Look out for my next blog where I will share my time with some ofRwanda’s most talents performers.

Until next time Murakoze Urakoze, Asante Sana, thank you!!​

One Response to “Rwanda- The land of a thousand hills”


  1. Diani Beach, one of East Africa’s palatial​ secrets. | rosiemoteneblog - May 8, 2019

    […] I chose Rwandair as my airline of choice and left OR Tambo International airport from Johannesburg, in the early hours of the morning on the 26t April and landed in Kigali, Rwanda for a three-hour layover. I did not mind the long wait as it gave me the opportunity to have a few cups of my favourite coffee. I had the opportunity of visiting Rwanda a few weeks prior, you can read about my adventure here, […]

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