Inzozi Nziza (Beautiful Dreams)

Inzozi Nziza

 

Danielle 13

Umukobwa mutoya

Umukobwa mwiza

Inzozi nziza

Umutima Mwiza

Isi n’isi ryawe

Isi n’isi ryawe

What kind of future

Do you want?

The blue-green hills that line your dreams

What will you become?

An MP?

Join the 64%

A doctor join the 59

Feminizing ICT

With near gender parity

And corporate boardroom equity

Look in the mirror

Do you see Jeanette

Perhaps a Musikiwabo?

Forest hero Mukanmumeje

Or Deputy CEO of RDB?

Inzozi nziza

Hills line your dreams

Abakobwa batoya

Abakobwa beza

Imitima myiza

Isi n’isi ryanyu

What will you become?

 

Little girl

Beautiful girl

Beautiful dreams

Beautiful heart

The world is yours

The world is yours

What kind of future

Do you want?

The stars and stripes that line your dreams

What will you become?

Darling demand your 80 cents

Don’t ask for maternity leave

Little girl, you want a promotion?

Forget a family

Winning a seat in Congress

Roughly as likely as rape

Stand in line and march in silence, suffragette

Join the 1 in 5

Beautiful dreams

Star-spangled dreams

Little girls

Beautiful girls

Beautiful hearts

The world is yours

What will you become?

Nyakinama

Remarkable Rwanda. The billboard, maintained by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), displays a mountain gorilla-the country’s premier cash cow-and greets tourists on the 11.5km journey from Musanze town to Volcanoes National Park, Kinigi.

“What is it that you like so much about Rwanda?”

“Well ya know, it’s just something about those hills,” my smirk and cheeky response did the trick, and I elicited a chuckle from my Rwandan friend.

Aesthetically, I wasn’t lying. So much of Rwanda is beautiful in an otherworldly sort of way. I fell in love with Rwanda in June 2014, on a bus from Kigali to Cyangugu. Rwanda kifite urufunguzo rw’umutima wanjye. Rwanda still has the key to my heart. But at the risk of overextending the romantic metaphor, our relationship is deeper now, less superficial. It is the kind of relationship where “we may have our problems, but we understand one another’s complexities and are committed to making it work” (a direct quote from yours truly, this time apologizing to one Katie Bernhard for lending Desmond Tutu’s memoir to someone else).

Cyangugu

Remarkable Rwanda. In many ways a country-level approximation of the ways in which the “Africa Rising” narrative is an oversimplification. Those who study Rwanda from afar balk at the horror of 1994 and rest contentedly in freshly substantiated perceptions of a “dark continent.” Tourists who visit Rwanda for a short time gush over Rwanda’s thriving eco-tourism industry, rapid economic development, efficient governance and palpable future orientation. And while all of these descriptors are valid, they don’t do justice to the complexity of Rwanda, a complexity I can’t in good conscience claim to understand after five short months. But in many ways, I believe that the relationship that many Rwandans hold with their country bears similarity to my friendship with Katie or my own relationship with Rwanda: a commitment to success despite an understanding of complexity. The majority of my Rwandan friends and colleagues spent formative years outside the country, and yet definitively identify as abanyaRwanda (Rwandans). Hidden in these thousand hills are a thousand intimately valuable, beautifully human stories: a colleague who still lives in her childhood home despite its proximity to the scene of tragic loss, a close friend negatively disposed toward dogs because of their role in a loved one’s death. Gorillas may fuel Rwanda’s development with foreign currency, but inzozi nziza z’abanyaRwanda (the beautiful dreams of Rwandans) form the lifeblood of Rwanda’s future.

Poem Disclaimer: I understand that statistics do not do justice to the complexity of the female experience, whether in Rwanda or in the United States. Where possible, I attempt to provide evidentiary links for my claims. The piece is primarily an artistic exercise and a tool for thought provocation, and I encourage you to treat it as such. Given that I write for a primarily American audience and the media narrative regarding much of Africa in the United States focuses on the negative, I intentionally exaggerate the pro-Rwanda slant here. However, I can assure you that: 1. All claims are 100% true and 2. “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” (James Baldwin)

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