Nyirarumaga of African literature: Annual Gakondo concert debuted in France

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This first Rwandan cultural center in Paris, geared towards transmission initiated by the late Damien Rwegera, was officially launched in Paris, France. The event’s first edition was devoted to Rwandan literature under the theme “Heritage and creativity”.

The four-day meeting held from June 8 to 11 at Espace Cardin and Grand Palais Ephémère, took place in collaboration with the Rwandan Cultural Center of Paris Igicumbi and the City Theatre. Among the activities included, was an exhibition by painter Mucyo Lux, stand-up comedy by Michael Sengazi, Itorero workshops for children and Gakondo evening that involved music, poetry and traditional songs among others.

Among the Gakondo artistes based in Rwanda, who were invited to perform at the event’s first edition includes Junior Rumaga, Jules Sentore, Ben Kayiranga, Ben Ngabo, Herve Twahirwa and duo of Ange and Pamella.

Organised by Igicumbi Cultural Center and Rwanda Arts Initiative as part of the “Passerelles” project of the Théâtre de la Ville de Paris, “Nyirarumaga des Litteratures Africaines” was officially launched in the presence of the Ambassador of Rwanda, representatives of town halls of Paris and Kigali. The artistic direction was entrusted to Dorcy Rugamba, an actor, director and founder of Rwanda Arts Initiative.

The project was originally initiated by the late Damien Rwegera, a man of culture, who died a month before the launch of this project which was important to him.

These meetings are sponsored by a 15th century Rwandan poet, Nyirarumaga, considered the Rwandan mother of letters, he explains. She founded the first cultural institution of the country, the Chiefdom of Poets ‘Intebe y’abasizi’ as well as the first dramaturgy of poetic narratives and a system of chanted transmission of poems with actors and bards whose mission was to learn the texts by heart and pass them on from generation to generation.

The late Damien Rwegera, founder of the Rwandan cultural center Igicumbi and the brains behind the initiative, which brought together Rwandan writers from all horizons, envisioned the project to make known Rwanda’s rich literature on the international level also as a moment of reflection on the role of art and literature in the creation of national consciousness in the post-genocide citizen thought.

“Rwanda has a civilization of nearly three millennia (metallurgy of iron dated 685 BC) the country’s literature is primarily poetic, dynastic, warlike, pastoral and popular. The historical stories, dynastic genealogy, the code esoteric dynasty, tales, oral traditions, popular and mythical stories are all elements that have enriched the Kinyarwanda language and strengthened its productive power of a powerful imagination, cementing the cultural identity of Rwandans.

A woman is at the center of this literary adventure of a whole people, Nyirarumaga. A poet of the early 17th century, she created a genre of poetry in verse and founded the institution of the academy of court poets royal (Intebe y’abasizi). Igicumbi, Rwandan cultural center in France is part of the dynamic artistic initiative initiated by Nyirarumaga and wished to broaden the celebration of this literature to that of Africa, whose matrix it shares civilizational.

“Heritage and creativity”, such is the theme chosen for this first edition. Heritage is a name that abolishes time and the different caesuras that colonial times imposed on us, pushing us to distinguish between precolonial and modern literature, oral and written. It will be to promote and pay tribute to writers of expression Kinyarwanda as well as contemporary writers who speak other languages.

The originality of this first edition is due to the fact that Rwandan literature culture, however rich and varied, is less known than the song and the other arts.

During these meetings dedicated to the dialogue between writers and writings, the central theme talked about the role that literature plays in the construction of the imaginations of Rwandans living in Rwanda and in the diaspora, as well as in the constitution of a shared memory between Rwandans and with the rest of the world in particular Africa. The exchanges will make it possible to question the choices of writing about Rwanda based on certain questions such as author status, language or that of the place of the teaching of literature in the schools and at the University.

The next editions will be held alternately in France and Rwanda.

Angel and Pamela gave an epic performance
Angel and Pamela gave an epic performance

Jules Sentore one of the performers at the show
Jules Sentore one of the performers at the show

Juniour Rumaga showcased his poetry talent
Juniour Rumaga showcased his poetry talent

Singer Ben Kayiranga also performed for the audience.
Singer Ben Kayiranga also performed for the audience.

The late Damien Rwegera, founder of the Rwandan cultural center Igicumbi and the brains behind the initiative
The late Damien Rwegera, founder of the Rwandan cultural center Igicumbi and the brains behind the initiative

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