As someone who is a fan of both short stories and audio formats, be that podcasts or audio books, I was really intrigued by Radiobook Rwanda’s new multimedia literary imprint. The project aims to showcase Rwandan and East African creative voices and is supported by the British Council’s East Africa Arts Programme. Along with these three beautifully handmade books, each story has an accompanying podcast which features dramatised narrations of the text, as well as interviews with writers, artists and individuals who explore similar themes to those found in the stories.
Annick La Reine Shimwa and Jess Atieno - ‘The Sykes Are Woke’
On the topic of resistance, ‘The Sykes Are Woke’ follows Shama, leader of the Sykes and a senior for the Junior Tigers training camp, and her personal recollection of a war-torn Rwanda. She reflects on how, as a child, she witnessed the invasion of her homeland and the subsequent murder of her parents from the Rwandan genocide that took place in 1994. Now an adult, she is determined to do everything in her power to ensure the community’s children are prepared for another attack so that they do not have to go through what she endured. In the podcast, Shimwa notes how one of the inspirations for this story was her desire to support female leadership in Rwanda and the importance of sharing these women’s stories.
Mutsinzi Eric and Nduta Kariuki - ‘Waiting for Words’
The next book, ‘Waiting for Words’, is on the topic of relationships. In this story we are introduced to a married couple (Gasana and Keza) who are frustrated by their inability to conceive. We enter the narrative after they have had an argument and Keza storms out of their house and into the local bar. Here, she reflects on their relationship and her desperate longing to become a mother. This was my favourite of the three stories. It was such beautiful storytelling and had a quiet elegance about it that I absolutely adored.
Jimmy Tuyiringire and Souls - ‘The Thunder Hunter’
The final story I read from this collection was ‘The Thunder Hunter’ which was based around the theme of modern myths. The story follows a family whose eldest son is a thunder hunter - a title that is handed down through generations. It addresses themes of colonisation and explores how Rwandans were forced to adopt Western culture and denounce their own. This particularly applies to the practicing of spiritual powers, like the rainmakers and thunder hunters, who were portrayed as villains by those from outside of the community.
To read these books is a completely immersive experience and I believe they would be best appreciated by lovers of contemporary art, spoken word, music and history. If you are looking to support indie presses and East African voices, then look no further!
Thank you to Heather from No Bindings for introducing me to this project and for sending me copies of these stunning books! You can buy copies of these books here.