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Interview with Scholastique Mukasonga

Scholastique Mukasonga is Rwanda’s most celebrated author. Her eight works of memoir and fiction, all written in French, reckon with the country’s tumultuous twentieth century in graceful prose distinguished by its warmth, directness and moral charisma. Combining the authority of traditional storytelling with the techniques of the social novel, her books explore themes of mourning and remembrance, female community, education and the insidious legacy of Rwanda’s Christianisation. At their centre lies the struggle of Rwandan Tutsis, who suffered decades of violence and displacement before the genocide of 1994.

 

Born in 1956, Mukasonga spent most of her childhood in a resettlement village on Rwanda’s outskirts, expelled with her family and thousands of other Tutsis by the independence era’s Hutu nationalist government. She overcame poverty and strict ethnic quotas to attend college for social work, but fled the country in 1973, when Hutu classmates assaulted her and other Tutsis amid widespread killings. Mukasonga moved to Burundi and then Djibouti before settling in Normandy, where she was living when the genocide killed thirty-seven members of her family. She lost both of her parents and all but one of her siblings; their village was effectively wiped off the map.

 

Grief and the determination to rescue her loved ones from oblivion would inspire Mukasonga’s first two memoirs, Cockroaches (2006) and The Barefoot Woman (2008). After their success, she began writing fiction, winning the Prix Renaudot for Our Lady of the Nile (2012). The novel brilliantly allegorises Rwanda’s 1973 unrest – a harbinger of the genocide – through the intrigues of a Catholic girls’ boarding school for daughters of the elite. An equally magnetic film adaptation by Atiq Rahimi debuted earlier this year.

 

Inspired by her mother’s storytelling, Mukasonga’s later fiction has turned decisively towards Rwanda’s traditional culture, which she sees as a bulwark against racial division.
The stories in Ce que murmurent les collines (What the Hills Murmur, 2014) reach back to the advent of colonialism and the collapse of Rwanda’s ancient monarchy, while her most recent novel, Kibogo est monté au ciel (Kibogo Went Up to Heaven, 2020), features a rogue native priest defrocked for syncretising the gospels with the martyrdom of Kibogo, a local figure of legend. Mukasonga’s latest work to appear in English is Igifu (2010), recently translated by Jordan Stump for Archipelago, a story collection that mixes autobiographical vignettes with moving portraits of Rwandan exiles in Burundi and France.

 

I met Mukasonga and her son Aurélien in May 2019 at the Freehand Hotel in Manhattan, where they were staying for the PEN World Voices Festival. A spirited conversationalist,
she was disarmingly quick with her insights, quips and courtesies, such as telling me that
I had ‘the eyes of a calf’ (in the traditional cow-centred culture of Rwandan Tutsis, a compliment). We subsequently corresponded over email during the summer of 2020;
I have edited and translated our conversation from the original French.

 

Q

The White Review

— You started your writing career in the genre of memoir, as a way, in your words, to ‘answer the call of my dead’. But you have since written novels that explore Rwanda’s history more expansively. How did grief lead you to a larger literary project?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— I’m probably an atypical writer. I didn’t have time to go looking for a model. I had an urgent duty of remembrance to perform, because I was living with the threat of losing that memory. I had to work with what I had, simply trusting in the blank page and making it my confidant. A confidant that welcomed my story without worrying about whether I’d written well or badly. When I started writing, in a little blue notebook that I always kept with me, I had no intention of publishing. I was saving memory. It was only after, through writing, I found enough respite to reflect, that I thought to share my story, to summon other guardians for it; and so, to publish.

 

My first two books, Cockroaches and The Barefoot Woman, are based on childhood memories of the Tutsi deportation camp in Nyamata, where I grew up. The Barefoot Woman is a tribute to my mother, and to all the courageous mothers forced, in those tragic years, to safeguard hope and to rescue their children. The books were paper graves that I had to build for my family, and for every victim who, lost in the genocide’s anonymity, remains unburied. Because this grave had to be worthy of them, I was always concerned to write well. My father, who did not know French, demanded that his children speak ‘a beautiful Kinyarwanda’. No doubt I inherited my care for language from him.

 

These first two memoirs were noticed by critics and received several awards, which encouraged me to persist in writing. Almost without noticing, I became an author. Igifu, my first short-story collection, was a transition to fiction. If some stories, such as ‘Igifu’ and ‘Fear’, are largely autobiographical, others, such as ‘The Curse of Beauty’, are more invented, while ‘The Glorious Cow’ draws on traditional Rwandan stories. Rather than a writer, I prefer to call myself a storyteller, as Rwandan mothers should be, because, as the saying goes, ‘Umuntu uca umugani ntagira inabi ku mutim.’ The one who tells a story has no hatred in their heart.

Q

The White Review

— In ‘The Curse of Beauty’, my favourite story in Igifu, you seem to begin working more novelistically, weaving the story of a beautiful Tutsi exile in Burundi into a larger allegory for the challenges faced by Rwandans at that time. What did longer fiction, and especially the novel, let you achieve that autobiography had not?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— The novel gave me the distance necessary to widen my field of writing. It allowed me to approach themes such as the condition of women, traditions suppressed by missionaries, Rwanda’s history and its racist falsification by Western anthropology. Novels liberated me, and if they remain, like my first books, a form of therapy, I’ve found pleasure in writing them, the same pleasure that my mother, Stéfania, must have felt in those evenings when she brought me and my sisters into the enchanted world of tales.

Q

The White Review

— Your first novel, Our Lady of the Nile, was adapted for film earlier this year. Could you describe your experience of the events that inspired the novel, and why you chose to retell them through the story of a girls’ boarding school?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— In 1973, when I was seventeen, Tutsi ‘intellectuals’, civil servants and students were expelled from their institutions. I had to go into exile and take refuge across the border in Burundi. At the time, I was only familiar with my village in Nyamata, my high school, Notre-Dame de Cîteaux in Kigali, and the social-work school in Butare. My memories of Notre-Dame de Cîteaux, which was supposed to train the country’s female elite, were the starting point for Our Lady of the Nile.

 

I wanted to take advantage of this new genre to rid myself of the poison that had ruined my adolescence, by inventing characters to whom I could lend some of my story. But I transposed them to an imaginary school, a microcosm of Rwanda in the 1960s and 1970s, when the country instituted a regime of ethnic apartheid and extended a Belgian colonial system that entrusted education exclusively to Catholic missionaries. (Belgium ruled the former German colony of Ruanda-Urundi under a 1922 mandate from the League of Nations.) This mass Christianisation profoundly uprooted Rwandan culture, causing the demonisation of ancient beliefs and the ostracisation of their guardians as sorcerers.

 

This is what I wanted to describe through the conflicts, hopes, illusions and despairs of the young girls in my novel, sequestered in their high school at an altitude of 2,500 metres during the rainy season that corresponds to a school year. I had no idea that I was obeying the old rules of seventeenth-century French tragedy – unity of place, unity of time.

Q

The White Review

— Those who haven’t read it might be surprised to learn that Our Lady of the Nile is, while certainly tragic, also extremely funny. What role does humour play in your work?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— Humour, in Rwanda, is part of elegant social comportment. Rwandans wield it with great dexterity, even towards themselves, and even in the most tragic situations. Discretion, reserve and irony are characteristic of our culture. This can cause misunderstandings. To me, humour seems like the smartest way to convey a message, especially in a complex and painful story. This is what I’ve tried to do even in books like Cockroaches, written from pain. The distance that humour procures seemed necessary to me in the face of the genocide’s unspeakability.

 

In a chapter of my latest book, Kibogo est monté au ciel, I introduce an eminent and sententious professor, who comes to Rwanda to demonstrate the existence of human sacrifices similar to those of the Mayas or the Aztecs in Latin America. It’s a caricature – I obviously don’t denounce the important contribution of the humanities – but how can we not be irritated to see our culture and our history interpreted according to Marxism, psychoanalysis, structuralism and other scientific modes? Kibogo may well punish the professor’s arrogant science with his wrath.

Q

The White Review

— Rwanda seems to have had no shortage of dangerous outside interpreters, starting with the Catholic Church. In Our Lady of the Nile, the Mother Superior collaborates with the student zealots who want to track down their Tutsi classmates. What’s the connection between the Church and Rwanda’s divisions?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— Belgian colonists and Christian missionaries, mostly the White Fathers, considered Tutsis to be the only Rwandans capable of governing. Belgium imitated the British Empire’s ‘indirect rule’, while the White Fathers dreamed of building a Christian kingdom in the heart of Africa. In the lead-up to independence, Rwanda had a short period of multi-party rule, but colonial and ecclesiastical authorities were concerned about the relationship between some Tutsi intellectuals and African progressive or revolutionary movements. It was the middle of the Cold War, and the Cubans were in Congo. Both Belgium and the Church turned coat and supported the Hutu party, the Parmehutu, which had incorporated the racist ideology of ‘foreign Tutsi’ and ‘indigenous Hutu’. We know what came next.

Q

The White Review

— Rwanda’s old monarchy, which was abolished at independence, looms over the characters in Our Lady of the Nile. Virginia, your protagonist, ends up seeking the protection of an ancient queen’s spirit. But I’d like to ask you about another royal connection, the one behind the novel’s film adaptation.

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— I didn’t expect Our Lady of the Nile to achieve such success. It was my first novel, an adventure. How far was that going to take me? And then, one day, I got a phone call from a Burundian friend. She told me that Charlotte Casiraghi, the daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and the granddaughter of Grace Kelly, had noticed my book and wanted to make a film. She asked to meet as soon as possible. The story of my book was becoming quite novelistic!

 

So I met Charlotte Casiraghi in April 2013. She told me that Our Lady of the Nile had come into her hands at a train-station bookstore in Lyon. ‘I’d been intrigued by the name Scholastique,’ she told me. ‘I read it on the train and immediately thought it had everything necessary to make a beautiful film.’ And she kept her word. She teamed up with her friend and producer Dimitri Rassam who, in the meantime – through the grace of Our Lady of the Nile – became her husband. The writer and director Atiq Rahimi agreed to shoot the film. I was thrilled by the decision. Atiq and I were friends. In 2008, I’d been invited to the Salon du Livre in Montréal as a guest of honour, and Atiq came as the winner of that year’s Prix Goncourt. We met in pyjamas outside the Hilton, after the hotel was evacuated because of a small fire. He, the Afghan, and I, the Rwandan, rediscovered our refugee status in the Canadian night.

Q

The White Review

— How did it feel to see the story onscreen?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— It made me cry.In the novel, I’d emphasised the force and dynamism of these young girls, who aren’t adults, yet who find themselves cornered by adult divisions and hatreds. I had a little distance, because, though it isn’t an autobiography, I had lived the experience at Notre-Dame de Cîteaux. But when I saw it, I couldn’t move beyond the fact that these were, first of all, young girls, with all the dreams of young girls. You see to what extent Rwanda was enlisted in hatred and discrimination. Poor Virginia and Veronica – and, yes, poor Gloriosa, who hunts her own classmates as I was hunted in Butare. (Virginia and Veronica are the school’s only Tutsi girls. Gloriosa is the film’s antagonist, a powerful Hutu minister’s daughter who incites violence against them.)

Q

The White Review

— How closely involved were you in the film’s production?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— I had the official title of ‘consultant’. Atiq Rahimi was anxious not to betray the book and to respect the complexity of Rwandan history and culture, quite far removed from that of Central Asia. The film was shot between March and December 2018. I was in Rwanda that September, and was able to assist Atiq, advising him to avoid certain anachronisms, as well as words and gestures that were contrary to Rwandan customs. I was very touched by his concern for authenticity.

Q

The White Review

— Did you know from the beginning that the film would be shot entirely in Rwanda?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— Filming in Rwanda was imperative for me, but it was nevertheless an uncertain dream, completely dependent on budgetary decisions. Once I learned that this dream would be realised, I was determined to follow every step, whether on the spot in Rwanda or from France via WhatsApp. I can’t imagine what the film would have looked like if the actresses hadn’t been young Rwandans. Their accents – among the thousands of accents that prove La Francophonie is alive and well – are for me one of the charms of the film. Another is the beauty of Rwanda’s landscape, which invites viewers to discover the country from a different perspective than that of the genocide.

Q

The White Review

— I was amazed to learn that the girls who played the students had never acted before, especially Amanda Mugabezaki, who portrayed Virginia.

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— Never. It’s remarkable

Q

The White Review

— How much did they know about the Rwanda where you grew up?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— The young actresses come from the generation after the genocide. They had no direct experience of the era of anti-Tutsi discrimination. But they grew up with parents still living with its after-effects, which will take many generations to resolve. My mother told us stories about the kings of yesteryear, from her own time and others. The mothers of the actresses in the film told their daughters the story of the genocide. The actress who plays Gloriosa, Albina Kirenga, told me that her parents were shocked when she told them that she was going to star in a movie. For a girl in Rwanda, where cinema is still in its infancy, it’s an exceptional opportunity. But when the girl explained her role, her parents ordered her to quit or to risk being disowned by relatives who had survived the genocide. She took refuge with her grandmother, who also didn’t approve, fearing that it would bring a terrible curse upon the family.

Q

The White Review

— Appearance and ideals of feminine beauty are central to your novel, and especially its conflict over who counts as a ‘real Rwandan girl’. Gloriosa, for instance, condemns the boarding school’s statue of the Virgin Mary for having an unacceptably narrow ‘Tutsi nose’. Meanwhile, Fontenaille, the predatory old European, idolises Veronica for looking like an ancient Tutsi queen. How are these dynamics reflected in the film’s casting?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— At first, I thought we needed to find an ugly girl to play Gloriosa. I insisted. But my Gloriosa in the film couldn’t be more beautiful. It’s a lot subtler that way, and underlines that there were no true physical differences. They had to be simply young girls, all alike. The only one who’s different is Veronica, so as to fit into the fantasy of Fontenaille, an old colonist who’s fallen into decline and raves about saving the memory of the Tutsi. I knew a Fontenaille in Burundi, a completely decadent coffee planter. He even kept cows.

Q

The White Review

— Fontenaille is a terrifying character. He claims to adore the two Tutsi girls, but actually represents the beliefs responsible, historically, for their vulnerability. Could you explain the colonial origins of anti-Tutsi prejudice?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— As I wrote in ‘The Rukarara River’ (published in The White Review No. 22), one of the greatest misfortunes to befall Rwandans, and especially the Tutsi, was to live near the sources of the Nile. The river’s origin was a longstanding mystery, and in the second half of the nineteenth century, England’s Royal Geographic Society organised expeditions to find it. In 1858, Richard Burton reached Lake Tanganyika, but it was his second-in-command, John Hanning Speke, who went on to Lake Victoria, concluding that it was the source of the Nile. Burton disputed his discovery, and in 1860, Speke embarked on a second expedition to confirm it. He was fascinated by the political organisation of a region that would later be known as the African Great Lakes, where sovereign power rested on sophisticated rituals and court pageantry. Visiting a principality south of Lake Victoria, Speke informed the monarch that his ‘race’ was of Ethiopian origin, and had once practised Christianity. None of these explorers reached Rwanda, which they only knew from vague rumours. Yet before meeting a single Rwandan, they’d already sketched a forensic likeness, which under colonialism would harden into a mask. Tutsis were said to be tall, almost giants, with fine features, straight noses, and impassive bearing, of Caucasian type. They obviously came from elsewhere – possibly Ethiopia, but even further afield: Egypt, the Caucasuses, Tibet, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Others savvily classed them as a race unto themselves: Hamites, descended from Ham or Cham according to the Bible. In any case, the Tutsi were evidently not Africans.

 

After colonisation, Europeans interpreted Rwanda’s history in terms of races, invasion and feudalism. It was the birth of an ethnological myth, widely circulated in scholarly and missionary literature, that created a catastrophic division. Tutsis became strangers in their own country, aliens it was necessary to hunt or exterminate. There would be ‘real Rwandans’ – Hutus with a right to the land – and those not-at-home, the Tutsi. The Belgian creation of an ethnic identity card in 1931 would seal the division. Some Rwandan noblewomen succumbed to ‘Egyptian fashion’, wearing non-traditional hairstyles that evoked Queen Nefertiti. This flattering portrait did not erase the coloniser’s suspicions. Beware the Tutsis’ good manners and the fatal charm of their wives, said those who claimed to know us, for they are deceitful hypocrites. We know how such fantasies led to the genocide’s abominable killings. Women and Tutsi girls were the first victims – raped, tortured, reduced to the condition of sex slaves. They were regarded by the génocidaires as tempting snakes, whose poisonous charm had insinuated itself among Europeans to slander and discredit the ‘majority people’ and conspire against their regime. Tutsi women and girls would pay dearly for the mirage of their beauty.

Q

The White Review

— As powerfully as you’ve written about the manipulation of feminine ideals, you’ve focused even more on communities of women, their solidarity and resilience. What has this emphasis brought to your understanding of Rwandan history?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— I’ve always loved to write about women in their everyday tasks at home or in the fields. In Un si beau diplôme! (Such a Beautiful Diploma, 2018) I describe my community of Rwandan exile girls in Gitega, Burundi. We lived in a dilapidated old colonial building, exchanging dreams of the future by the light of a hurricane lamp. In The Barefoot Woman, I describe the community of women that my mother wove around herself in Nyamata, a veritable parliament that met in our backyard. There, young girls learned good manners and the canons of Rwandan beauty, while advantageous marriages were arranged according to clan law. The women were the watchful guardians of tradition, sometimes going so far as to exile someone suspected of bringing bad luck to the village, but also ready to invent new rites to save a girl raped by militiamen from the anathema that weighs on child mothers.

Q

The White Review

— In Burundi, you were studying for a degree in social work, which you earned and later had to re-acquire in France. You haven’t stopped practising the profession, even with all of your literary success. How does it inform your writing?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— Becoming a social worker was without a doubt the only choice of my life. I believed that it would allow me to bring knowledge to those who had been excluded in the villages, to be their spokesperson with local authorities, and to extricate them from their marginalisation. Although I was unable to practise in Rwanda, in Burundi, I worked in rural areas with women who shared the same culture. In France, I fulfilled these same duties in a different context: to assert the rights of those at risk of being neglected, and to assist them in the improvement of their daily lives.

 

I’ve always said that being a social worker isn’t just about giving. One receives much in return. When I first took on the heavy burden of being a survivor, I found comfort in a profession that always lets me feel useful to others, and in feeling that society expected me to be near those most in need. It gave me the strength to find peace and to write down my painful story. Writing, to me, also means lending my pen to those with no access to literature.

Q

The White Review

— Many of your characters go looking for the record of a past that has been kept from them. Prisca, in Le Cœur tambour (Drum Heart, 2016), reads about the nineteenth-century revolt of Queen Nyabinghi in a missionary’s diary, which she discovers in an old church library. You’ve also discussed the neglect of Rwanda’s oral traditions during your school years, when they were dismissed as ‘backward’ remnants of the old monarchy. Has rediscovering that archive been important for your writing?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— When I was young, traditional storytellers and ritualists faced scorn and censorship from Rwandan politicians, but they attracted the interest of scholars, ethnologists and historians – both foreign and Rwandan – as the importance of safeguarding traditions and ‘oral literature’ became apparent. In a way, writing down this literature, hitherto transmitted by specialists of the royal court or storytellers like my mother, killed the freedom that had allowed storytellers to exercise their talent, and which made each telling unique. But at least it was preserved.

 

This rich literary harvest has remained beyond the reach of most Rwandans, even – or especially – those who entered the European school system. Many ‘oral texts’ only saw daylight in specialised journals with tiny audiences, which were quickly exhausted after their publication. These ethnographic collections were very difficult for ordinary Rwandans, even those who were literate, to access. The literature of Rwandan oral tradition was therefore reserved for ethnologists or Africanist historians. It remained a dead letter for the majority of young Rwandans educated in Europe. At Notre-Dame de Cîteaux in Kigali, my Kinyarwanda classes never addressed ancient literature. We never cared about studying ibitekerezo, historical narratives; ibivugo, heroic poems; amazina y’inka, pastoral poems; not even imigani, tales that could yet be heard at home. Our Kinyarwanda courses consisted of writing letters and administrative reports, or commenting on proverbs known to everyone. I’ve tried to catch up, often on the Internet, which offers many opportunities if you have the time and patience.

Q

The White Review

— When you grew up, French was the language of instruction in Rwandan schools. Since then, the government has promoted a shift toward English. What language, or languages, do you think will prevail in Rwanda’s literary future?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— Just as every individual counts, each language counts. Its value is not reducible to the number of its speakers. Any language, from the moment it allows an individual or a group of individuals to express themselves and thus to exist, ought to be preserved and considered among the riches of humanity.

 

Many Africans are fluent in three languages – their mother tongue, an African lingua franca, and a European language inherited from the colonial period. Rwandans have the inestimable treasure of sharing the same mother tongue: Kinyarwanda, which is the basis of education today. Swahili is the language of commerce, used throughout East Africa and much of the Democratic Republic of Congo. You will often hear it in Rwandan markets. French was imposed by Belgian colonists. (If the first great European war’s outcome had been different, would I have spoken and written in German? I have often asked myself this useless question.) English arrived as a supplement, to expand the horizons of a small landlocked nation long reduced to a ghetto state by colonial and missionary rule.

 

Rwanda is now a member of the Commonwealth, while Louise Mushikiwabo, a former foreign minister, is Secretary General of La Francophonie. Future Rwandan literary talents will have the choice to express themselves in any one of these four languages.

Q

The White Review

— You have said elsewhere that writing in French might be ‘temporary’ for you. Would you ever write in Kinyarwanda?

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— For me, both languages are always present. In the 1960s and 1970s, French was taught in Rwandan primary schools. But it hardly left the classroom, because Rwanda was lucky enough to already have a national language spoken by everyone. So French, for me, was for a long time the language of writing. I wrote French before I spoke it, and even today, it seems to me that before I utter a French word, I have already written it in my head.

 

Besides, it seems to me that my ‘beautiful Kinyarwanda’ guides what I write even if, on the surface, French takes over. I often imagine that it’s my mother who holds my pen or leans over my computer. French is not my mother tongue, but I think I’ve tamed it enough to make it tell Rwandan tales. The two languages share my thoughts and dreams: I don’t know who operates the ‘simultaneous translation’.

Q

The White Review

— Do you think you’ll ever devote a book to contemporary Rwanda? Several of your memoirs conclude with glimpses of more recent travels home.

A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— To write about the new Rwanda, I’d have to really settle there – not just what I do now, one month here, two months there. What truly interests me is the generation born after the genocide, who didn’t know its brutality and have turned toward creation, autodidactically, especially in the countryside. Who don’t necessarily want to leave the countryside, but to develop Rwanda so that it’s not just Kigali, a ‘Singapore’, as foreigners have sometimes reproached. My project would be to write about an unencumbered Rwanda, because one doesn’t want to be a hostage of history.

 

It’s not that we’re going to erase the years between the 1960s and 1994. But to build a house, you need a foundation. To build a solid Rwanda, one must go into the past, into the Rwanda of other times, which is why I wrote Ce que murmurent les collines and Le Cœur tambour. One reason I look to the past is because in that past, Rwandans lived together, without artificial differences, all children of the same father, Gihanga. (Gihanga is the legendary founder of Rwanda.) One looks towards that dignity of the past to build anew. So, I’m going to write about the new Rwanda – that’s an obligation – but with a foundation in Rwandan tradition. Not in the void.

Q

The White Review

— Your story ‘Death’ from Igifu ends with a difficult return to Rwanda. The narrator is an exile, like you, and at the beginning we see her in France. Do you plan to write more about your adopted country, where you’ve lived for so many years?
A

Scholastique Mukasonga

— I write about Rwanda, but I live in France. It’s a bit like having two lives. My early life in Rwanda provided material for what I dare to call my autobiographical trilogy: Cockroaches, The Barefoot Woman and Un si beau diplôme!. In the last of these, I devote several chapters to my move to France, the resumption of my studies to obtain a French diploma, my search for a job. But I am also present in my second country through the articles and columns I publish in newspapers. Of course, it is not impossible that I will one day dedicate a book to my professional experience in France. A social worker of African descent in the Norman bocage isn’t so banal.

 

But I believe that I will never stop writing about Rwanda: there is so much more to write about this lost, murdered, recovering, reborn country. There are few Rwandan writers, and among them, even fewer women. I know my books are needed. It’s as though I receive orders from young Rwandans who thirst to rediscover a culture so long obscured and despised. Writing to meet their expectations has become a duty, but also a pleasure. All I have to do is dig into the trunk of my mother’s tales.

 

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Julian Lucas is a writer and critic based in Brooklyn.

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