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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”