Kigali, dead by night

Kgl party
Partying with Mamba’s owner John Cox. Photo: David Berg

One thing you’ve gotta know about me is that I take my night life seriously. So seriously that I wouldn’t waste a second if it doesn’t lead to rocking the boat on the dance floor. I love to partyyyyyy!!! I’ve been partying for a while now but if you need a reference time, let’s say when Cadillac, Planet, Black & White, and B Club were banging. I know some OG’s who’ve been killing it way before when Cercle, Cassablanca, Kigali Night were the bomb! About 6 years ago, I remember publishing a list of my favorite hangouts with weekly activities around Kigali. Now all we have left is discriminating Cocobean and shitty People (the club) and everything else that operate long hours being worse. Cocobean and People should date each other. Hopefully they would drown or set each other on fire because, you know, absurdity can be quite a passion.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. Ariko when I try to connect the dots as to how we got in this predicament, it’s kind of vague. Things fell apart gradually, systematically though. I don’t know the why but I have an idea about the how. In my observation, I think it all started with a party in Kicukiro organized by graduates from La Colombiere high school in 2006. Not only this party was shut down but it was raided by police and everyone was jailed. Word on the street had it that some children of some “very, very, very, very, very important” personalities in this country had attended the party without their parents’ consent. To fix the problem, police applied a very interesting method that can be compared to burning down your neighborhood because of a mosquito bugging you in your room. I must be the one exaggerating here. Basically everyone who attended the party spent some time in jail. I’m glad I was not at the party but I’m also sad that I missed the party. I mean if you can party till you end in a cell, you must be a party animal for real.
The reason why I said it all started with this party is because from then, you had to seek approval from local authorities to throw a house party. We laughed about it, as we usually do about everything, but now look at us. The police can shut down any party, any time, anywhere, confiscate sound equipment and jail the deejay with no need to explain anything. It’s that watchu-gonna-do-about-it-nigga attitude. And it works for them. So well that they thought “Hmm let’s apply it to professional events, bars, motels, hotels, and why not churches? In the end people will have no source of entertainment and everybody will be happy MWAHAHAHAHA”

This is Rwanda. You wake up one morning, your gate is suspended because there’s a new road at the edge of your fence. You try to drive home from work and realize a new one-way sign out of nowhere. You come back and it’s facing the opposite direction. It happens over and over with no explanation. Eventually you give up. After all the government cares for your well-being, right? Police is only enforcing the law. Like this law.

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The funny part about this law is that the phrase “noise pollution” does not exist in Rwanda’s penal code. You have quite some entries on pollution but none is related to sound or noise. And, you only have one “noise” entry.

noise pollution.JPG

art 600

And about that article 600, define “noise”, define “disturbance.” When does music become noise? Please explain because we’re suffering way too much over this “noise pollution” ghost law. And what makes the neighbor’s sleep more important than the money being injected in the economy and the dozens of jobs created overnight? Can you answer that dear Rwandan National Police? I understand they need their quiet time but I also need my loud time? How do we co-exist? Apparently the solution is to soundproof everything. But here’s the thing. Most of pubs in Rwanda operate within houses that were not designed for that purpose. They are made to be homes. And, you will notice this if you pay attention to the facts that there is usually only one bathroom (barely working), a bar occupying half of what was meant to be the living room… Soundproofing these homes to turn them into pubs means shutting down windows and doors, which help with ventilation because the places are relatively small; it means setting up air conditioning systems, acoustic roofs and walls among a few things. And when you thought that solved the issues, old pubs have become night clubs in residential areas. Oh and that means there will be a good increment in prices. Do I need to remind that the way our bank accounts are set up, we currently sip beers with a toothpick? Anyway I don’t want to be in a tiny night at 7pm. You’ll turn people into alcoholics. I want to enjoy the beautiful sky and view of the city, inhale fresh air and laugh with my people. So I don’t believe in soundproofing as a solution, as a consumer.

Now as an artist and cultural entrepreneur, if you can survive, it’s impossible to thrive in Kigali. I repeat impossible under the conditions stated above. Many artists before me, with more charisma and talent have invested for a long time only to see their dreams reduced to powder by government through its regulations and absolute lack of support. It is so bad that many had to leave and give up on their talent to become slaves of western colonies. Like I said in Real Talk “Go hard, go home or find your way to exile, this art industry isn’t designed for artists to survive.” How am I still standing does not matter. It is only a matter of time, in this part of the world because at the end of the day, everyone has a breaking point. So you see, dear Rwandan Police, your vague regulations are a hindrance to our existence as cultural entrepreneurs.

The world has more than 195 countries. This is the land that chose us. We chose it back. All we want to add some colors and smiley faces on it. But you don’t want to hear that, do you? Don’t make us hate what we love because we will hate you instead, and therefore hate ourselves. We’re wasting such a beautiful space. When the sun is not up to remind you, the moon does.

Can I help? Sure. By all means I will help you fix the problem that you created by making me the problem in the first place. Life and its ironies. That’s why I accepted the invitation to sit with the head of tourism in Rwanda Development Board (RDB), along with few surviving event organizers, artists and cultural entrepreneurs, to discuss How to Improve Night Life Experience in Rwanda because Kigali cannot allow itself to be a boring city that intends to accommodate tourists. Suddenly because we’re talking tourism, boredom does not make sense huh? Hypocrites! But guess what I’m a sweet citizen and I will help. Meanwhile please tell police that being professional does not mean parading with fingers on their triggers through crowds of people consuming alcohol. Guns and booze don’t get along well. Rather ask them for clear laws and regulations, standards (tools, measures), reporting mechanisms, procedures and most importantly to be accountable.
Truth-folie yours,
1key 😉


Encounter with The Culture

Growing up poor in the 80’s in a small village with no electricity somewhere at the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaïre then), I didn’t know what television was till I was about eight or nine years old. My grandfather’s small radio operating with batteries, which I pounded gently and exposed to sun rays for recharge (miracles of science!), was my only source of music entertainment. I remember the distorted sounds of soucousse, rumba, zouk machine, reggae, funk, and pop due to bad reception when my granddad wasn’t listening to the News about wars ravaging almost every part of Africa. I don’t recall listening to any Hip Hop music back then. My most memorable encounter with Hip Hop was right after the end of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda when I moved to Brazzaville, the capital city of the other Congo. For the first time, we had a TV set at home. I was finally able to put faces to some of the familiar vocals that rocked my eardrums. I began to connect the pieces. For instance, watching Michael Jackson’s play with his zipper in his dance routines answered the question “Who’s bad?” The more I paid attention to details in the music videos, the more I realized the influence of television on my surrounding.

For the couple of years that I attended a private school in Brazzavile, somehow I ended up in the circle of cool kids. Cool kids are those who want to look like stars on TV and who other kids want to emulate, you know! I didn’t grow up with what they had. They wore t-shirts with Hip Hop legends on them, didn’t button their shirts, sagged their pants, wore boots or fresh sneakers on the regular. Some of them would clip fake earrings on their lobes and put on a US flag bandanna to look exactly like their idols. Those kids were also called branchés (plugged in or connected). They read comic books, magazines on music, sports, played basketball in the streets and talked a lot about rap and movies. They had interests. I did not have much. I was a shabby boy from the village who couldn’t speak their language. Some of them sang along to French rap songs. I could barely articulate my needs to go to the bathroom in class. On the other hand, my English was almost nonexistent. It’s only recently that I realized Dr. Dre didn’t say “wawawess” in California Love but “Wild Wild West”. But I didn’t care. Nobody cared. And that’s exactly what I loved about this art form. The I-don’t-give-a-fuck-as-long-as-it-feels-good attitude.

With time I developed a certain thirst about the content of the music. I needed to know why black people were angry and why they used more words on a standard song than anybody else. I had to learn the language. I studied over time, used TV and radio as more as learning tools than entertainment sources. Beyond speaking French, and English later, I wanted to understand the lyrical content of rap songs. Luckily some music magazines included posters of celebrities with lyrics of their hit songs in their issues. But again, I did not have the level to comprehend. I could only grasp a few words after cross-checking with my pocket dictionary. For the slang, I had to wait till the early 2000’s with the availability of the Internet in Rwanda to do my own researches about the meaning of some songs. That helped me a lot improve my English as well. Soon, I was hooked and started writing to myself in a journal format. Then somehow I stumbled upon rhymes, today they call me a Hip Hop Poet.

I have consumed more Hip Hop culture than any of my African cultures without moving from the continent and I have come to realize that Hip Hop goes beyond the beat, the dance, the graffiti, the dressing, the hair styles, the gestures, the slang… it is the most influential culture of our time. It’s too present, too loud, too bright and so versatile it can’t be contained. Right now somewhere in a deep villages, kids with no shoes on are rhyming on a bucket beat.
Africa has thousands of Hip Hop heads, MC’s, producers, dancers, etc who have been influenced by The Culture and are now redefining their continent with the same fire the pioneers started with. I am happy to know that many are doing it justice.
Hip Hop is alive.


Powa 254 - 1key
Iyadede Sabrina (on the guitar) & 1key jamming at Pawa254, Nairobi, Kenya.

Kwipasa muremure

Abakinnye karere si ngombwa kubasobanurira icyo “kwipasa muremure” bisobanura. Abakurikira umupira bo sinabibarusha. Si no mu mupira gusa ushobora no kwipasa muremure mu buzima busanzwe. Urugero ni ukujya mu kabari ufite gahunda n’inshuti iza kukugurira ugatumiza byeri ya nshuti yawe igahura n’ikibazo ntize telephone yawe ikazima. Wenda aho wavuga ko harimo n’ubudebe. Uwabivuga nutazi icyaka icyo ari cyo uretse ko ushobora gusanga nawe ari muri ba bantu batunga imodoka igira retorovizeri igura amafaranga aruta umushahara wabo. Uti uyu ni umusongarere. Ukavuga utyo utunze terefone ihenze kurusha moto kandi nta na mobayiro money irimo yo kwishyura urugendo rwo kuri moto rwa make. Ugasekwa nukodesha inzu y’ibihumbi magana ariko agahora yikopesha amakara kwa mama Mutesi. Nawe wakongeraho ingero niba wayotse [Kuyoka ni ukurishyira mu nkoranya mwongeraho ko ari ikiryogo. Eh! abuzukura bacu bazakeka ko kera mu gihe cy’abami b’abatafugenge habayeho ikiryogo ari cyo cyabyaye ikinyarwanda cyabo]
Umuntu yakwibaza ati igitera kwipasa muremure ni iki? Ese nuko umuntu aba yabuze ubundi buryo? Reka reka! Abantu dukunda ibituvuna nubwo tudakunda kubyemera. Mu mukino w’umupira w’amaguru uwipasa muremure aba yabaze nabi. Yabigira akamenyero akitwa umuswa. Ikindi kandi ntaba ashaka gukinisha abandi bakinnyi. Yumva ko ari we kamara. Nyamara agakoresha imbaraga nyinshi yiruka inyuma yigihombo.
Uyu munsi nafashe bisi iva kimironko njya mu mujyi mara isaha n’igice umushoferi azunguruka hose ashakisha umuhanda. Navuyemo ntaragera iyo njya nkomeza n’amaguru kuko ukwihangana kwanjye kungana n’ururo. Impamvu urugendo rwatinze nuko umuhanda bisi yari isanzwe inyuramo wagenewe abanyacyubahiro baturutse mu bihugu bitandukanye by’Afrurika baje kwitabira inama nkuru nyafurika kw’ishoramari. Sinanze abashyitsi rwose. Udasurwa aba ari umugome. Ariko na none dushyize mu gaciro, ndavuga ka kandi abayobozi bahora batubwira, hatumvikana ka kandi baciramo, kubuza abaturage uburenganzira bwo gukoresha imihanda yubatswe n’imisoro yabo ngo nugushimisha abashyitsi bangahe… ibyo ni ukubatesha agaciro! Nabisanisha na rya kandamiza rikorerwa abana ngo bicare hasi bahe intebe umushyitsi nkaho uwatumiye umushyitsi atigeze atekereza aho aza kumwicaza. Igisekeje kandi kinababaje nuko iyi nama igamije kwiga ku buryo abanyafurika twashyira hamwe ngo tuzamure ubukungu bw’umugabane yateje kandi izagukomeza guteza igihombo mu gihugu igihe cyose izamara. Urugero: umushoferi ko ataza kurenza amaturu abiri ku munsi araveresa iki itike ikiri kuri magana abiri mirongo itatu kandi aza kunywesha amavuta inshuro nyinshi ate n’umwanya ashakisha umuhanda nk’amazi yabuze aho atoborera? Umumotari wanyishyuje igihumbi aha magana atanu nawe akayatamo azenguruka Kigali ashakisha umuhanda iyi nama imumariye iki? Ibi murabona atari ukwipasa muremure? Si ubwa mbere, nubushije haba inama ihuza abakuru b’Afurika habaye ikibazo cyo kugenda. Ubu noneho byahumiye ku mirari kubera imvura. Ubwo uribaza gutonda umurongo muri gare ukanyagirwa utazi ko hari bisi iza kuboneka? Ese ubundi ko inama iba yateguwe amezi n’amezi mbere, kuki ntawatekereje ku buryo abaturage bazakomeza imirimo yabo batabangamiwe?
Ubwo hagati aho sinakubwira ibyongereza biba byaciye indimi ngo twahinduye Afurika. Byo nyine guharira umuhanda abantu mirongo na ukabuza uburenganzira bwa miriyoni na- nabyo wakagombye kubyibazaho. Niba ari imena bigeze aho ntimwabategera kajugujugu ko zihari? Iki kibazo Afurika iragihorana, abayobozi bafatwa nk’imana kandi bakagombye kuba abakozi b’abaturage. Nubwo ntawakopfora ngo avuge ko yabangamiwe n’amahitamo y’ubuyobozi si ukuvuga ko biba bitagaragara. Agahinda k’inkoko…
Icyo maze kubona muri iki gihugu ni uko imigambi myinshi ari myiza ariko ishyirwa mu bikorwa rya byinshi ntiriba ryizweho neza. Atari uko iyi mihanda mishyashya ntiyakabaye icukurwa uku bwije uko bukeye ngaho ngo fibre, ngaho ngo twabaze nabi tuyagure, ngaho ngo yatobotse; ngaho abaturage bahawe inka babuzwa kuragira… nibwo usanga mu Mushyikirano muzehe atonganya abayobozi nkaho ari abana bo mu mashuri abanza. Ibyo byose ni ukwipasa muremure. Kugira igitekerezo cyiza ntibihagije ngo ukore neza. Yego hamaze kubakwa byinshi mu myaka makumyabiri n’ine ishize ariko ntibihagije. Kubaga igihugu ni uguhozaho. Ikibazo gikomeye ni imyumvire y’abayobozi bamwe na bamwe. Nibaza ko iyo bumvise ijamba “kubaka” bahita batekereza amatafari. Wenda niyo mpamvu Kigali yubatse ariko ikaba ituwe na bake kubera ubushobozi. Ugasanga umucuruzi w’imyenda akodesha akumba ku madorari igihumbi kandi agurisha ishati kuri makumyabiri ku bakiriya bari mbarwa.
Ubu dufite ikibazo gikomeye cy’urubyiruko rufite ibitekerezo byubaka ariko kuko bitajyanye n’imitekerereze ishaje y’abayobozi bamwe na bamwe bigatuma bitwa ibipinga. Nimureke dupinge ntitugifite ubuzima bumwe. Iyo abenshi mwahaze ntimwibuka ko mwigeze gusabiriza. Mumbarize minisitiri w’urubyuruko niba nta soni agira iyo abashyitsi bamusabye aho bakwidagadurira akabura icyo abereka? Ese wa mugani, abaha akaradiyo ngo bumve ikinamico iyo bamusabye aho barebera za teyatere? Ese ayo madovize ni itegeko ko ajya mu ngagi gusa? Abahanzi ntibayakeneye ngo biteze imbere? Abafite utubari ntibayakeneye?
Niba koko umutekano ari wowe nkuko tubyemeza isi, kuki ntawe utekanye ku mufuka uretse abatuye mu duce tudasa n’ahandi? Nibaza ko tumaze gusirimuka ku buryo tutagikeneye kwiyerekana uko tutari. Kuba umuzungu avuga ko tuba mu bihuru, si ngombwa ko tubyuka twubaka amagorofa akarara amurika ijoro ryose ntawe amurikira kandi nyamara abenshi bakiri mu bihuru, wasanga icyihutirwa ari ukugira amazi n’amashanyarazi mu ngo zacu twese. Nidukomeza kwipasa muremure urubyiruko rw’ubu ruzagira akazi gakomeye ko gusana aho kongera itafari ku byubatswe.
Tworoherane kandi duhorane amahoro.

The System is a Rapist

Bad news bad boys, no Happy New year for you because #MenAreTrash. Apparently I shouldn’t be saying that and should instead say #IamTrash because apparently there is a good 0.1% of good men out there. But that means you would agree that there is a lot of trash in our system(s). If you think trash is a strong word, let’s go with “prejudice towards women” in general. I look at my chats with friends discussing women empowerment and I cannot believe I said the things that I have said. Or the sheer fact that I believed I was right and entitled to think so. My killer line used to be “If women spend as many hours working as men, who will take care of the kids?” While I would be labelled sexist by feminists, many men would cheer for me. You could be the most feminist man on the planet but there are things your system cannot understand about being a woman simply because you are not one. So I’m not going to be pretentious and claim that I do but for what it’s worth I like spending time listening to their stories. For the past few months I have been paying attention to few Rwandan women that I met, especially female artists – young, amateurs, professional, legends – and I was speechless to have a glimpse of the amount of prejudice, injustice, disrespect they endure on a daily basis. I couldn’t help but ask, “What do you think is the reason men treat so badly the same women who carry them into this life then look after them their lifetime?” The answer was a question. “Why don’t you ask men that?” Now how do I ask men who are “always right?” “Always working hard day and night to put food in the kitchen when all the women can do is boil and fry the food?” “Men who fight other men over territories to provide a safe haven for their women and children?” So the other day I burst the bubble by tapping into the Rwandan culture. The culture of rape to be precise.

This is something I only realized this year by interviewing old women in rural areas. I learned that our grandmothers were forced to marry at a young age. As young as twelve years old through rituals that were designed to blind their perceptions of reality in order to take advantage of them. Of course this is my current realization and interpretation of what I learned. You are entitled to your own opinion. I will talk loosely of marriage and sex practices. For instance, I learned that the sisters and friends of the young bride-to-be had to sing sad songs to make her cry on her wedding day but this was crafted to make the ritual seem like she was sad to leave her family but a truth that we were not told is that she was a child terrified to death to forcefully marry a man she had never met before and who probably was already married to three, four, six, ten or more other wives acquired through the same process. Yes acquired is the word. Let’s be honest, that dowry is not as sacred or symbolic as it seems. It’s strictly business. The groom was buying. And if you know the phrase “Sinagukoye se?” (Did I not pay to have you?) is still used in Rwandan homes when a woman tries to rebel in her home. A reminder that she is a private property. The amount of cows (old form of money) depended on how much the father estimated the beauty of his daughter-to-be-sold. That’s harsh? Think about the act itself.

When it came to sex, rape was scripted in such a way that it became part of the rituals. The newly wed couple would wrestle till the man overpowers the young girl. And that was acceptable. Then you would argue, that cannot be true. What about kunyaza? Why would the man insist on making the woman squirt if he didn’t care? Well, if he cared so much he wouldn’t marry a child, force himself into her and shame her with names like Mukagatare if she did not squirt at all. On the other hand, a man who wouldn’t succeed to have overpower the bride and have sex with her for at least the first three nights was shamed. Then in some cases, his father, more experienced in the matter, would get in the mix to rape the girl and set the example. That too was culturally accepted and called gukazanura.

When I mentioned that we come from a culture of rapists, I got lynched on twitter. I understand we highly think ourselves. Myths have it that some of us are semi gods bla bla bla… maybe that’s where our sense of entitlement comes from. To think we are the epitome of greatness. I get it when feminist stand to fight patriarchy. It is stupid and totally fucked up! But what are you replacing it with? In the end we all know that power corrupts even the best of us. You would think Rwanda, having the highest number of women in parliament all these years and having some of the best rankings with #HeForShe is better suited to reform the patriarch system but guess what? When I tweeted about the insane amount of under-age girls raped while nobody mentioned the rapists’ whereabouts or any social justice procedure, I fell off my chair to learn that the resolution from the parliament, with the highest number of women seats in the world, was to jail any girl who would have sex before she is eighteen. Your men must be proud of you, ladies. You are officially condoning rape and damaging the victims.

However some young woke women have had enough of this shit and are taking the matter in their own hands to seek social justice realizing that as years go by, their scars open wide while sexual predators who had assaulted them roam freely and continue to prey on other women, making new victims.  @My250Tweets which is a collective twitter handle created by a Rwandan woman for the purpose of allowing Rwandans across the world to share their experiences, is being used as a platform to give a voice to rape victims coping with trauma in an insensitive system that does not want to take responsibility.

While I personally know some of the alleged rapists as people whom I drink, play, interact with often; some of them have qualities that I look up to but that does not mean they are incapable of rape. You have heard of pedophile priests, intellectual genocidaires, corrupt leaders… most of these characters actually use their influence commit these crimes.

Article 11: Rwandan culture as a source of home-grown solutions
In order to build the nation, promote national culture and restore dignity, Rwandans, based on their values, initiate home-grown mechanisms to deal with matters that concern them. Laws may establish different mechanisms for home-grown solutions

Our constitution is pro-homegrown solutions. This is how you see fit and there is nothing wrong with it. It’s an upgrade of the traditional courts taken notches up.

“The tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man… it constitutes the powerful obstacle to culture.” – Sigmund Freud

I am not pointing fingers here. All I am saying is that we, men, are weird beings in our nature and we need to keep each other in check. And ladies, please don’t be shy at pointing at those sexist comments, jokes that we make. We won’t know if you don’t tell us your perspectives. Sorry it’s too much work but we are in this life together. I am so sorry for all you have been through as a people.

As for the legal procedure, I am not familiar with how Rwandan police deals with rape cases that are reported a while after the crime has been committed and there is no evidence. But somebody said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, right? If your name is dropped, you probably have something to do with it. But obviously anyone accused of rape would defend themselves with phrases like “I didn’t do it.” “I don’t know that woman.” “I have never met that woman.” “We used to date; I didn’t give her the ring. She got mad. Bitches be crazy.”

Now I am just here wondering what is the way forward?

  1. How do you know the victims or the alleged rapists are telling the truth? You put them under the lie detector?
  2. What do the rape victims want to be done for them?
  3. What do the rape victims want to be done to the rapists?
  4. Can one victim’s testimonial be considered as evidence?
  5. Can more than one testimonial be considered as evidence?
  6. What happens if the alleged rapist is proven innocent but their reputation has been damaged?
  7. What happens to the victims whose identity has been publicly revealed?

Truth-folie Yours


A Thought For #Kenya

The hardest thing for me to swallow about the situation in #Kenya right now is to realize that the violence was expected. It was talked about. There were warnings; Signs. And now it is happening. Again. The same Us-Versus-Them rhetoric. If you knew how much Us there is in Them and how much Them there is in Us, you would know that a panga is not gonna cut it. It’s no way to settle land disputes older than your lineage’s imagination combined.
I speak as a Rwandan born in exile because some people in Rwanda in the late 1950’s thought panga was the way. Where are they now? Many of them became manure for bushes to flourish just like their victims. Neither own the land. You cannot own the earth. It will swallow you before you know it whether you are good or bad. You are a part of nature just like the remains of your ancestors, animals, trees… they’re all present in the soil you step on, the dust, in the air that you breathe, even in the stars light years away. We are all made of the same matter. There is no tribe in your DNA. There’s life, even in its smallest form. And no life is more important than another. That’s why our emotions are the same – fear, courage, sadness, happiness, love, hate… They are the reflections of the other. So if you can feel, you can be the other.

Please forgive me if this sounds ignorant or poetic while people are being killed, I’m sorry but all I want to say is that Kenyans you are being “polytricked” by the same people over again. The playbook is the same. Had it changed, we wouldn’t be having the same scenario: Create chaos, exploit the weak, come through as savior, blame it on your opponent, be a hero, amass wealth and repeat the pattern.

What’s the smallest thing you can do (or not do) to avoid the trap?


Vis Large

When I tell people that I spent about five months in a village called Buhanda in the Southern Province of Rwanda, their first reaction is “No freakin way!! You? What were you doing there?” Usually I would say research but that happened organically as I started my quest to find my roots by interviewing old people about their lives before 1959 in Rwanda. The quest led me to paths across the country. I’m currently writing a book in French about that experience but in the meantime you can read summaries some of the interviews here transcribed in their original language (Kinyarwanda.) 

What made my life easy in the village was the fact that I was born and raised in a village, in exile (Goma, DRC). I guess the first twelve years of my life had prepared me enough for the poverty in Buhanda. It wasn’t as bad as back in my early days but poverty should not be compared; even though I was fleeing the same in Kigali because I was unable to provide for myself anymore after quitting a full-time job in pursuit of my passion for the arts, which doesn’t pay the bills since people and organisations insist on paying in an imaginary form of currency that doesn’t work in the real world called exposure. When I thought about settling in the village for a while, I knew rent would be cheap and that I could live better on a $100-monthly budget than a $700 one in Kigali. Plus the food would be fresh and cheap too. So I hoped on the bus and headed to Buhanda, where a friend was experimenting organic farming.

First day at the marketplace in Buhanda. I was excited. The people were like what’s going on here?

I love Buhanda. My house was one-minute from the bus park and the marketplace. Speaking of the market, shopping only happened on Wednesday and Friday. Friday was light in terms of crowd and activities. Why? Because almost everyone is adventist in Buhanda, which is very close to Gitwe- home of the adventist community in Rwanda. There was almost no activities on Friday afternoon. Saturday is sabbath. Nothing happens on that day in the Advetists world. Not even cooking. Sunday is a day off for catholics and protestants. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday are normal days with no market activities. It bugged me in the beginning but with time I got used to shopping groceries only once a week. I was an outsider, anyway. It was obvious in the way people looked at me. I am familiar with strange looks. I’m ok with people whispering to each other behind my back about my hairstyle, piercings and tattoos. I have grown to be comfortable in this skin that makes people uncomfortable due to their personal insecurities. Oh the game of living! On the other hand, at the marketplace they called me boss since I was a regular buyer. Every time I paid for something with a Rwf 2,000, I realized their struggle in getting the change. Most transactions around me happened in coins. I heard people bargaining over 10-15 francs. Then I asked a woman who sold me fruits, “Don’t you think you would make more money if sold more often? I know you’re one of the few to sell here twice a week but maybe a little more would help you earn more.” Then she said, “Who would buy? I’m not even sure I will sell all these fruits today. And it’s a Wednesday!” I didn’t know how to respond to that. I had so many questions about what was happening around me. Why were street lights on all night over two kilometres for people who sleep at 7pm because they don’t have electricity in their homes? Why were there two ATM’s accepting VISA for people who struggled to get change for Rwf 2,000? How was I able to access the Internet when there was no access to clean water? The biggest question was Is it bad decisions that lead to poverty or poverty that leads to bad decisions? A wise friend answered “It’s the chicken and the egg. 

But then I remembered that I had once asked a group of old people who had lived their entire life in Isunzu, another village a few kilometres from Buhanda where my friend and housemate was farming, “What are you going to do about the water situation in the dry season? Didn’t you starve last year?” They didn’t even let me finish. They were terrorised by the idea of a scorching sun for two-three months but still had no plan. So I suggested that we dig dams to collect rain water. That was in March. It was raining. They pretended like they didn’t hear anything. My friend and I went on and dug a 7×5×1.5m dam. Our worry was that the soil would absorb the rain water once the dry season kicks in. So we thought we would try dry clay on the sides and see how it would work. Then a mirracle happened: While digging we realized we couldn’t get deeper than 1.5m as we were approaching the water source. That was a blessing in disguise because we collected both rain water and water from the source at the same time. Throughout this whole dry season, my friend had enough to water his crops. 

This photo was taken about a month after digging. The water levels were going up. The only cost was labour: Rwf 15,000

As days went on, I began to feel home in the village. So I decided to adjust- not adjust to a typical village lifestyle but to adjust the village to mine. I didn’t make money in the village. I spent, with so much joy, the little I would make through online translation jobs. Every time I had an idea about producing something for the house, I would step out and get it done with the villagers. I assisted them if I had to but in most cases they had it on lock. I met some unusual minds who were used to produce the usual. Here are few things that I got done by villagers in Buhanda:

I got tired of the lean-and-collect-water-with-your-hands routine while bathing. So I went to marketplace and bought the bucket (Rwf 1,500), the shower thingy (Rwf 3,000), 2×3m of plastic (Rwf 3,000), customized stool with space for soaps and other stuff (1plank: Rwf 2,000). Labour cost (plumbing, carpentry, sewing): Rwf 3,000. Grand total: Rwf 12,500. The hottest part is that since it’s sunny every day, water in the bucket is warm every day before it gets dark. PS: Remember to add Sur’Eau in the water to kill germs since it’s from the source.
I like to lean when I’m reading. So I thought what about a chair that does that without costing an arm and leg but had six legs? In my initial discussions with the fundi (maker), I suggested an ordinary wooden chair with two extra legs but we realised metal would last longer. Cost: Rwf 6,000. The guitar stand was a hard concept to explain so I had to draw it and instruct the fundi during the process. If you zoom in you will realize there is a mini book holder at the back. So I would play the guitar then switch to reading whenever. Cost: Rwf 3,000.
The bookshelf is pretty simple. I didn’t need anything fancy. I didn’t want my books on the floor so I got this made in a about an hour. Cost: Rwf 5,500. The mat, known as ikirago, is handmade. Cost: Rwf 2,000
This is my favorite invention. I had so much fun. Even the fundi couldn’t believe it! Everyone was proud. The structure that holds the jerry cans is made of water pipes. You can do as many levels as you want. A little soldering for stability will be required. Cost: Rwf 18,000.
The bed structure, which cost Rwf 11,000, lays on four pieces of chopped logs. Each log cost Rwf 500. There’s another log that works as bed table. Total Cost: Rwf 12,500. The lamp is made of water pipes and a plastic plate on top of the bulb. The red metallic structure is for the support especially if you need to move the lamp around the house or outside. You can also adjust the height by pushing the water piper deeper in the structure. Cost: Rwf 6,500.

A few things that I learned from this experience:

  • It doesn’t hurt to try new things. Au contraire, it enriches our experience and that of people around us;
  • If we can conceive it, there is no doubt we can make it happen;
  • We are not always poor but very often we make poor decisions; sometimes by mimicking rich people’s decisions;
  • It’s important to be aware of problems around us, the most important thing is not to simply complain about them but to try, yes try, to find solutions in our capacity;
  • We must review our priorities in this part of the world and be conscious of the fact that the cost of looking good is more expensive and far damaging than the cost of living good. 

That’s it for me. I’m going to let you go out there and live large! Make every experience worth your time in this life.



I wish I could live from my art. Seems impossible in this corner of the world. For now. Some day maybe. That’d make me so happy.

I’ve been on survival mode for a while. Lost pretty much every tangible item I owned. No biggie. I was prepared for it.

I lost a lot of weight, lots of blood. I collapsed a couple of times during my trips. Life was testing me. I got through it all. Victorious.

It’s not about any god. It’s having faith (in whatever and) in the process. Once you’re 100% in line with your path, it all comes together.

I have never felt this whole my entire life. I have discovered feelings beyond names. I have met incredible artists, amazing people.
I’ll keep doing the best I can to create, produce, promote beautiful arts. Probably not as much as I have for the last past 1 & half year.

Right now I’ve got to get back to employment full time. I got too many debts. Our economy isn’t steady enough to offer part time jobs.
Thank you so much for keeping up with my crazy mind. For accepting me. For loving me. Sorry for being harsh. I got that tough love.

I’m not quitting the arts. How can I? I ain’t even takin a break. I’m just saying time is gonna be a challenge but I’ll rise above.

Life is about choices so I wrote about them and invited a couple of talented artists with whom I share the journey to help me say it better. Remember their names: Weya Viatora, Nganji Arnaud, Dany Beats.