I grew up being told repetitively
The household is like a human body
The man is the head of the whole
The woman holds it together
Kids are the members
They both follow
The man’s lead coz “he’s the brain” after all
Apparently it takes balls to be a man
But I know mammals that got bigger than…
2 to 3 inches
Heavier than 3 pounds
Of fragile eggs that can barely handle the slightest pinches
This world domination got me to question my own masculinity
Coz I realize that mistreating girls for my own perception of reality
Has nothing to do with feminity
And maybe our need to blow our expansion out of proportions
Is to cover for our pettiness, weaknesses and misconceptions
But I tell you what:
If you wanna test how strong a man is
Leave him alone, if he doesn’t cease to exist
That man is a gem
Watch the performance for the Big Men project in this video
Before the Event
About a month ago, when I received an email from the Goethe Institute in Rwanda to participate in a workshop/concert project in Kampala, Uganda, scheduled from 1st-5th October under the theme #YourMusicYourVoice on which Megaloh & Ghanain Stallion, who were on an African tour, would perform, I thought “Who are these guys?” So I looked them up and damn they were hot! I don’t speak German but music has no language. It is the language of the universe. I felt the anger, the protest in their Hip Hop. That’s when I felt the hell-let’s-do-this vibe in my guts. So I emailed back Goethe with a yes. A few days before the event, when Goethe Zentrum Kampala asked me to send a short bio with details about how I use social media to address social injustices, I thought “Okay, it’s serious! Let’s do this!” When the poster was out and I was officially representing my country in such a noble cause, I thought “This is awesome!”
Day 1 – Intro
On the night of the 4th of October, I took the bus from Kigali to Kampala and was picked up from the station to the hotel the next morning. The hotel was nice. The best part was the location: less than two-minutes walk to Kisimenti, Goethe, and Kamwokya for Meddy’s chicken (and everything else one may need on this planet). Since some of the international artists/activists had already arrived, we got to share a drink at the barbecue on Goethe’s rooftop. There was even fireworks in the Kampala sky. Not exactly for us but since we were there, we took it as a personal welcome. It was beautiful energy all over.
Day 2 – Presentation
The morning began with a presentation of my work. I focused on my latest projects: The Expericment and La Voi(e)x de la légende because someone said “You are as good as your last work.” A couple of artists/activists, international and Ugandan got to share their journeys as well. The experiences were so enriching and brought to light our African realities into similar perspectives even though we live in different geographical and historical contexts. We easily related to each other’s struggles. Then came the Q&A. It was intense. In a good way. I still cannot get around some of the questions. For instance, how does one answer to;
- What have you achieved in your country in terms of social justice for your people?
- How do people react to your music in your country? What about the government?
- As an artist/activist who criticize your government, are there instances where you have been in trouble because of something that you said? How did you get out of trouble?
- Are there available legal bodies in your country to defend you in case you get arrested for protesting and voicing certain opinions? If yes, where does the funding come from?
- How far will you go to defend your ideals?
It’s not like I had never thought about these questions. They are usually part of my work as a conscious artist. It’s just more challenging when you have to answer and sometimes you don’t have the answers. Unless you have the experience of Monza who said “In Mauritania, I have been arrested many times for speaking out against the injustice. The government is the judge. The people are the lawyers.” The irony of life did not miss the rendezvous. As we had these discussions, one of the artists could not freely participate because he was going through a series of intimidation, persecution, arrest and even attempt to murder. Why? Because he was/is using his voice to protest the motion to change the constitution that would allow Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to become another Mugabe.
In the afternoon we visited a studio in Muyenga where NewzBeat is produced. As the word suggests, it’s the news delivered on a beat. Journalists are rappers and they just don’t rap the news, they research and create new ways of engaging with everyday realities. What was even more inspiring was the fact that Xuman, the creator of the new-on-the-beat format known in French as Journal Rappé in Senegal, was there to witness at first hand the ripple effects of his creation.
A little bit later we visited the Youth Sharing Centre in Nsambya where Abrahamz gives free hip hop dance classes and cyphers regularly, especially to street kids. I felt blessed to be there and learned a couple of moves. So next time you wanna battle me on the dancefloor, there is gonna be some serious poppin’ n lockin’.
Day 3 – Arts And Activism
We kicked off the morning with fresh discussions related to how we do what we do where we come from and what are the receptions/perceptions in regards to our opinions. I felt blessed to be on the same platform with artists and social activists who make moves that influence change in their societies. It was great to be surrounded with people who have the same ideals as mine and who have been living up to them. Some of the topics that were unearthed surfaced were related to identity, home, the role of the artist in the society, North-South relations, colonization, decolonization, democracy, freedom, free speech, poverty, corruption, justice, equality etc. Check out some of the quotes on Twitter #ArtsnActivismUG
After the talks, there was more talks. This time live on NTV with Douglass on his show The Beat where we got to share a bit of our arts and what to expect at the concert.
Day 4 – #YourMusicYourVoice Concert
It was a pretty chilled-out day as we all needed to be fresh for the evening concert. By 1pm we were at Design Hub for sound check (and work on a paper costume for some of us, you know 😉 As for the rest of the show, it was legendary! You are definitely going to hear about #YourMusicYourVoice for a minute. On top of the concert, we did two songs and two videos featuring all the artists on the poster and more legends from Uganda. Meanwhile here’s how my performance looked like…
I had so much fun, I learned a lot, I met amazing people, I ate delicious food… I can’t ask for more. It’s been enriching in every sense and I am grateful to Katherina for thinking highly of me, to Anja for treating me with such respect and consideration, to Lara & Flora for making shit happen, to Anne Whitehead for the “positive vibes”… it was well organized. Thank you!
To my sisters Yallah MC, Lady Slyke, and my brothers Monza, Xuman, Outspoken, Juma, Nash Emcee, St Nelly Sade, Sylvester & Abrahamz, HE Bobi Wine, Megaloh & Ghanaian Stallion, Koz n Effekt , Sparrow and everyone that I did not mention, thank you so much for keeping up the spirit of Africa and for making me believe in us more. Let’s keep in touch!
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.
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.
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:
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.
Selfie ngo kaci! Mpita mwereka ifoto arishima cyane 🙂 – Ese muzehe Kanyandekwe, waherukaga kubona ifoto yawe ryari?
– Ku ndangamuntu.
– Ese ubundi ufata indangamuntu bwa mbere hari ryari?
– Sinibuka amatariki neza ariko hari muri za mirongo ine. – Hari handitsemo ubuhe bwoko?
– Umuhutu – Wari usanzwe uzi ko ari bwo bwoko bwawe?
– Ubwoko nzi ni uko ndi umusindi w’umunyiginya. Data yabazaga ingoma z’i Bwami mu bigugu n’imitake. Iwacu twari abiru. – Ese ugereranyije imibanire y’ubu n’iya kera, ni ibihe bihe wahitamo kwiberamo mu myaka usigaje?
– Yewe! Kera byose byari byiza. Abarwanaga byabaga ari nk’imikino nabwo babiterwaga n’amarwa y’ibitoki, ay’amuki, ay’uburo…
– Uburo buhingwa he?
– Iwacu mu Bunyambiriri
Bweramvura bwa Kinihira, Amajyepfo
– Ese musaza Njunga ufite imyaka ingahe?
– Va kuri ibyo, umva! Inzara ya mbere yabaye mu Rwanda ni Rumanura hari mu 1918. Iyo narayibariwe. Iya kabiri yitwaga Gakwege. Hari mu 1928. Naragiraga inyana na sogokuruza wawe. Nyuma haza Ruzagayura. Iza ifite icyivugo. Ngo “Narishe ariko nyirabicucu yarananiye”
– Uwo ni uwari ufite inka.
– Ruzagayura yo ni iya Ryari?
– Yabaye hagati y’1941 n’1945. Icyo gihe nari muri Zayire nkora mu makawa hepfo ya za Masisi.