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.”

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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."