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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."