News / Arts & Entertainment

Rwandan Women Thrive on 'Sweet Dreams'

Rwanda's only female drumming troupe is made up of both Hutus and Tutsis, many of whom are still traumatized by the 1994 genocide. (Courtesy Lex Fletcher)
Rwanda's only female drumming troupe is made up of both Hutus and Tutsis, many of whom are still traumatized by the 1994 genocide. (Courtesy Lex Fletcher)
The film, "Sweet Dreams," begins with a group of Rwandan women drumming, and in those rhythmic beats lies a story of unimaginable loss, but also of hope.

The women make up the first and only female drumming troupe in Rwanda. Most of them are still traumatized by the 1994 genocide, in which the majority Hutus slaughtered ethnic Tutsis, leaving almost one million people dead.

"Sweet Dreams" is a documentary which follows a group of these women as they try to rebuild their lives.   

New era

Kiki Katese, a Rwandan theater director and drummer, founded the troupe in order to help women on both sides of the conflict recover.  

“When you don’t yourself have hope, when you don’t have faith, when you don’t have joy, you can’t give anything you don’t have," Katese says. "In a country full of pain and grief, I chose to bring life, and I chose to bring joy.”
'Sweet Dreams' Come True for Rwandan Womeni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
June 27, 2012 6:42 PM
Nearly one million people were killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In the years that followed, many survivors tried to rebuild their lives. Now a new film tells the story of a group of women who found spiritual and financial fulfillment from two unlikely sources. "Sweet Dreams" shows a side of Rwanda seldom seen by the outside world. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

The name of the drumming troupe, Ingoma Nshya, means "new kingdom" or "new era." The drummers range in age from 16 to 60.

“We have widows, we have orphans," Katese says. "We have kids of perpetrators, we have wives of perpetrators.”

 The troupe breaks barriers in more than one way. Drumming was practically taboo for women in Rwanda before Katese formed the group.  

Sweet Dreams

Several years later, Katese met Jennie Dundas, the co-owner of an ice cream store, called Blue Marble, in New York City. Katese teamed up with Dundas and her business partner, Alexis Miesen, to open a similar shop in Rwanda.   

Despite some initial setbacks, they opened the country's first ice cream store, named Inzozi Nziza, or sweet dreams, in the city of Butare. They hired and trained about 10 of the women drummers to work in the shop and each now has an equal share of the business.
Children enjoy ice cream at Sweet Dreams in Rwanda. (Piper Watson)Children enjoy ice cream at Sweet Dreams in Rwanda. (Piper Watson)
x
Children enjoy ice cream at Sweet Dreams in Rwanda. (Piper Watson)
Children enjoy ice cream at Sweet Dreams in Rwanda. (Piper Watson)

Now, Hutu and Tutsi women are both drumming and working together, while becoming financially independent.

“I’m really happy that some of them were able to go back to school," Katese says. "Some of them are building houses, some of them are becoming autonomous and thinking about the future with hope.”

Transforming lives

"Sweet Dreams" recently premiered at the AFI-Silverdocs festival near Washington, D.C..

Filmmakers Lisa and Rob Fruchtman, a brother-sister team, say the film is more than just a feel-good story.

“What the story is more largely about, for us, is thinking outside the box when thinking about the possibility of social change and transformation in individuals’ lives," Lisa says, "how these small projects rather than large governmental projects for instance, can really transform lives."   

Katese and her partners are planning more ice cream shops in Rwanda in the coming years.

Although opening an ice cream shop might seem like a simple thing, Rob Fruchtman believes it's actually an important development for the next generation of Rwandans.

"Children need to know that it’s O.K. to smile, that there’s a place for them to smile, that happiness is a part of their lives, not just survival," he says. "And I think that might be the larger message also of the film.”

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."