Marathon 'Ape Man' diary
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Inshuti-UK - Dorian Haynes
Permission requested to use information from http://www.afropop.org
Bouncing along this red road, our jeep's tires kick up a plume of earth the color of sienna, rich and cracked. We are driving through a landscape of rusts and coppers, earthy colors scratched across a palette of greens. Around us on both sides, huge surreal banana plants crowd the road, their massive leaves like the sails of windmills. Up here in the northwest of Rwanda, the countryside is vertiginous: there are fertile plains, marshes, winding rivers; but above all, there are hills. These are the "milles collines " of national legend, countless musozi as far as the eye can see, the mountains, and distant peaks of the Virunga volcano range, which together account for a good deal of Rwanda's national pride. They feature prominently on the bank notes and lend their name to the one truly upscale hotel in the capital, Kigali. It is by these hills, rising like the turrets of a natural fortress, that one may immediately distinguish the landscape of Rwanda from neighboring Uganda.
If the hills are a source of national pride, they have also been the economic mainstay for thousands of family units, or rugo, since well before the colonial era. All over this country, there are apparently un-peopled vistas that, on closer inspection, reveal clusters of men, women, and children, swinging huge farm tools, cutting into this already over-cultivated country. Before the genocide, Rwanda was one of the most densely-populated and heavily-farmed countries in Africa. Even now, away from the towns, everybody seems to be working on some ancestral small-holding, every available acre appears to be in constant steady rotation.
Established three years ago by local youth leader François Nkinzehwiki and musical prodigy Alfred Sibomana, Ballet Inganzo is one of many groups operating in the Ruhengeri area. During the three weeks of our trip to the country, we saw three such groups perform, from the 70-strong Ballet Inkoramutima za Kristu (lit. "beloved of Christ") directed by Father Placide Duhirimana at Janja, to Inganzo themselves enthralling us with performances at several venues, to a small group of primary school children in the village of Nyange who donned huge white manes of hair and brandished frightening home-made spears or icumu, and shared their elders' expression of fierce defiance as they danced a ballet with the Kalisimbi volcano swathed in mist behind them. Against all expectations, we discovered an indigenous culture that is vibrant and rich, and young musicians who are as keen to learn and refine their art as any hopeful saxophonist or drummer in London or York.
Comprised of 35-40 youngsters from Ruhengeri town and the surrounding area, Ballet Inganzo is one of the most accomplished groups in the province. During our time in Rwanda, we heard mention of other provincial outfits in Kibuye, Cyangugu, Kigali, as well as another group called Ikenimba in Ruhengeri. The members of Ballet Inganzo largely hail from the loose chain of shacks and huts northeast of the town center known as Gashangiro. As is sadly true of so many in this region--and in the country as whole--their personal odysseys tend to describe a tragic arc of extreme violence and bereavement at an early age. A frighteningly high proportion of the teenagers in the group are former refugees, many of them returning only recently from the horrific camps of Goma in war-torn DRC.
Having struggled against horrific personal odds, it is clear that Alfred has grown into an articulate young man with real potential to become an inspiring leader of his community. As such, he is undoubtedly the kind of person that Ballet founder François Nkinzehwiki sought out as he began to put the group together in 2000. Looking back now with evident pride, François recalls the founding aims of the project. Unlike most people in Rwanda for whom the genocide of '94 remains a taboo subject, François avoids euphemism. Indeed, he is quite explicit about his desire to reconcile the country's three socio-ethnic groups--Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa--within the micro-community of Ballet Inganzo. In this way, Inganzo reflects Rwanda's pre-colonial past when court musicians and "ritualists" (Abiru) would pay tribute to the Mwami and the royal family.
Another of François 's grands projets is CLAJERANG,
a loose collective of local businessmen and worthies based in Ruhengeri.
CLAJERANG was originally set up by François and his British friend,
conservationist and erstwhile colleague of Dian Fossey,
Information compliments of http://www.afropop.org
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