Choices

I wish I could live from my art. Seems impossible in this corner of the world. For now. Some day maybe. That’d make me so happy.

I’ve been on survival mode for a while. Lost pretty much every tangible item I owned. No biggie. I was prepared for it.

I lost a lot of weight, lots of blood. I collapsed a couple of times during my trips. Life was testing me. I got through it all. Victorious.

It’s not about any god. It’s having faith (in whatever and) in the process. Once you’re 100% in line with your path, it all comes together.

I have never felt this whole my entire life. I have discovered feelings beyond names. I have met incredible artists, amazing people.
I’ll keep doing the best I can to create, produce, promote beautiful arts. Probably not as much as I have for the last past 1 & half year.

Right now I’ve got to get back to employment full time. I got too many debts. Our economy isn’t steady enough to offer part time jobs.
Thank you so much for keeping up with my crazy mind. For accepting me. For loving me. Sorry for being harsh. I got that tough love.

I’m not quitting the arts. How can I? I ain’t even takin a break. I’m just saying time is gonna be a challenge but I’ll rise above.

Life is about choices so I wrote about them and invited a couple of talented artists with whom I share the journey to help me say it better. Remember their names: Weya Viatora, Nganji Arnaud, Dany Beats.

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Another Miss, Rwanda 

I had promised myself to react less and less to matters that do not affect me directly because a lot of things hit me in this country and leave me wondering, “Did they think it through?” And so many times some of my fans and friends would kindly advise, “Eric, stick to poetry. We like you like that.” So I tried to follow your advice. I really tried but it’s just against what my guts tell me. It feels like going against my nature. I am a panther. I react. I am glad that this time I am not the only one. 

In fact, for the last couple of days, my social media feeds are full of reactions, mostly from ladies, regarding what a contestant on Miss Rwanda 2017 auditions said when she was asked about who was behind her make-up and style. “I picked the dress myself. I went for something that I would feel comfortable in on the runway, something that reflects the image/shape of a Rwandan girl” she said in Kinyarwanda. The male judge, struck by the last part of the reply, got to the edge of his seat and interjected, “What do you mean by “image/shape of a Rwandan girl?”” And with lots of confidence, she said, “A [true] Rwandan girl is shaped like igisabo.” 

Uwase Honorine, contestant on Miss Rwanda 2017. When you see them hips! 

A growing pot traditionally used to make butter by Rwandan girls

Any Rwandan understands Honorine is referencing to her curvy hips. And daymn she got mean ones! Uhm uhm uhm! Mean enough to be hated on by those who got none? Obviously. Rwandans on Twitter jumped on the occasions with memes and various reactions, and continue to do so, mostly for entertainment purposes. There’s not much entertainment going on. So people entertain themselves all day on social media. I do the same. 
Some judged her reply as “inappropriate” and I am here wondering if you were competing in a contest based on physical appearance, wouldn’t you brag about your goodies when given a chance? Miss Rwanda is not Miss Geek. Probably the reason why the general knowledge questions asked are of a primary school level. It’s all about the looks and which contestant seduces the judges and the crowd the most. And I must say, this girl did her homework and she wants that title. Zoom into the picture and you’ll see marks of the spandex shapers inside her dress for a better outline of the flow of her hips. Is that cheating? Lol. If so, we’ve been cheated on since day uno. Here are some tricks: weaves, wigs, relaxed hair, bleached skin, fake nails, make-up or facial drawings (you decide), heels (for height and raising the bum), rehearsed Q&A’s… Sponsored by the government. Bravo! What’s the message to girls, again? Empowerment and confidence, you said? How do you go about it? “Girl, be pretty and one day you could bear the country’s flag as the most beautiful girl in the country!” Mind you that criteria such as height and weight standards to define beauty on a national scale is discriminating. Strong word? Well, add “positive” before it. Everyone gets away with that. 

I can hear your thoughts go, “It is the same everywhere!” Well, there’s a lot happening everywhere but that doesn’t mean we should we copy them. Anyway, let’s not be too deep because the topic itself isn’t at all. Except the part when the ministry of culture claims, “Miss Rwanda aims at promoting our culture.” Unless the culture died and is resurrecting through girls with ibisabo hips because you know, ibisabo are precious in our culture. Ahem! I love ibisabo. 

#My2016

2016 was an intense year, wasn’t it? Very interesting too. Has there been any other time in your life loaded with information from everywhere and everyone 24/7? Everyone was switched on this year. So much that some of us got a glimpse into the director’s cut of The World As It Is before being slapped by an orange man with tiny hands. At some point I felt like I was part of the newsroom. Well, that’s probably because I was. It’s no secret that I did bombard you regularly with posts throughout the year. If you’re reading this, you survived. 

I began 2016 posting a video on my Facebook page hinting about my music projects and what it would take to achieve them. It probably sounded like those New Year’s resolutions but I knew exactly what I was talking about. I just wanted you to be part of it. 

https://facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1656633567926492&id=1475922169330967

Personally, I have never doubted my abilities to do the things that I set my mind to. I just have to want it real bad, and I consider it done. Some people call it genius but that’s another way of simplifying things and finding excuses for not doing. Say whatever but it’s whatever it takes that makes all the difference. We get trapped in existing formats about pursuing our dreams and forget the essence. Our experiences vary depending on our situations, time and space. They cannot become models but they can inspire others. How do I make it simple?Think of a hungry African kid in the village spending hours in some banana plantation trying to create toys from banana leaves with his own hands, without any tutorial and still managing to create their own happiness in the middle of chaos and misery. I was that kid. I am still that kid at 35 years old. Yes, the decor is different but the passion to create never went to sleep. I woke up this year to remind us all that “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of” and that “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” as Paulo Coelho put it so well The Alchemist. This year was a very refreshing and interesting journey and I am very glad that I did not walk alone. Many of you followed me closely even from a distance, with love, some friends, artists, journalists held my hand while many watched the journey unfold and there was an insignificant number of people waiting for me to fall. But I have never held my head higher than I do now. I am very proud to write “artist” in the profession box. We did it, fam! 

We pulled it off with no sponsor and we did it with class, didn’t we? We even did more than we planned. From the simple #Expericment series, we produced the #Expericment EP and now working on the #Expericmentary (the expericment documentary) plus lots of features on local and international publications. All this in less than 12 months. So here is a toast to you and I, fam. To the doers that we are. It’s your moral and emotional support, your physical and virtual involvement, your appreciation, your encouraging messages, your vibes that kept me going.

From the bottom of my heart, I wanna take this time to appreciate everyone who made 2016 the dopest year of my life. You will find your name in the credits of the #Expericmentary scheduled to screen towards the 15th of January 2017.

To greatness in 2017.

1Key, 1Love 

VISA chez les belges

​Les blagues sur les belges, vous aimez? Et les blagues par les belges alors? Je ne sais pas si vous allez trouver ça drôle, moi ça me dépasse un peu.

Voilà j’ai fait ma demande de visa pour l’Allemagne le 10 Nov pour une conférence à laquelle j’étais invité à Berlin. A chaque fois que j’entrais mon numéro de dossier sur le site de suivie, il n’était pas reconnu. Alors je me suis rendu à l’ambassade dans la semaine du 17 vu qu’ils disaient que je devrais avoir une réponse dans les 5 ou 10 jours. Après trois jours successifs de “revenez demain” sans suite, ça bouillonnait déjà dans le ventre mais je me suis inspiré de la patience de ceux qui avaient raté une grosse partie de leur formation intellectuelle parce que les services de l’ambassade de Belgique à Kogali c’est comme utiliser l’internet 2G pour transférer une pièce de 100MB. Mais bon, patience! Pas mon fort mais qu’est-ce que je peux faire à cette situation? Puis soudain du feedback. Il manquait un dossier et deux qui n’avaient rien à voir avec mon voyage. J’ai dû écrire une lettre pour m’expliquer. Oui pour m’expliquer. C’était le 23 Novembre. Mon voyage était prévu pour le 29 novembre. La conférence était le 2 décembre. Mon séjour et le reste étaient sponsorisés par le ministère du développement et de la coopération de la fédération allemande. Pas mal, non? Hélas cela ne m’a pas empêché de faire des visites à l’ambassade pour recevoir la même réponse “traitement en cours.” La veille du jour prévu de mon vol, après la même réponse :

– « Mais, madame je voyage demain. »

– « Repassez demain, monsieur Eric. Désolé. »

Deux jours plus tard, c’était perdu. Il n’y avait plus rien à faire. J’ai décidé d’oublier. 

Hier, je rallume mon téléphone et remarque que j’ai eu un appel manqué de l’ambassade. Je suis blasé. On est le 10! J’ai raté ma chance de connecter avec des cervelles dynamiques venant de partout dans le monde et surtout la diaspora rwandaise mais je me console avec un petit « il y aura d’autres occasions. » Oui il y aura d’autres mais plus celle-là. En même temps je suis conscient que la demande peut être acceptée ou rejetée mais que la décision soit prise 3 jours après la date de l’objet de la demande, je trouve ça non seulement inacceptable mais dégradant! Et puis vous les belges avant de venir chez nous, vous ne demandez pas de VISA. Vous l’achetez à l’aéroport de Kigali si je ne me trompes pas. Et moi, vous me faites payer plus de cinquante mille francs pour un service dont vous n’avez aucune intention de m’accorder, c’est pas de l’arnaque? En plus je ne venais même pas chez vous! 

On m’avait avisé de la mauvaise réputation de l’ambassade à Kigali. Je viens d’avoir ma dose mais bon, on apprend de nos erreurs. Il y aura une prochaine fois. Mon nom est NGANGARE Eric. 

À très bientôt! 

…On Employment around Here 

A friend posted an excerpt from a book on the various stages of employment and I noticed that the case study was of a married man. So I thought I should try to share the little I have come to observe as a youth in this country from a more generic perspective. 

PS: Here is not just a physical space, it’s a situation. 

After the glorious ministerial blunder yesterday, I can’t stop thinking about the issue related to employment. At the risk of sounding cocky again, I will not talk about unemployment since work has always found its way to me. I happen to know people who know people who know people who need people like me. I don’t know how the rest of the “98%” of Rwandans got employed. Maybe the minister will tell us with a softer tone this time. Yeah? 

That said, allow me please to share with you some of the observations I have made in my 10 years of employment. That’s many years at the service of companies in which you have absolutely zero legacy. So what do I have after 10 years? Well, pieces of a broken sports car and lots of debts. What did I do with the money? Well, I used it to have a certain lifestyle. I could have bought a house? Maybe but I prefer spending my money on experiences rather than things. These experiences make me happy. To each their own. All I know is that no one can take away all the beautiful memories and great people I shared bits of my time with at Planet Kbc, Cadillac, Abraxas, Iguana, Bubbles and all the places that allowed my spirit to laugh. But if a house is what makes you happy, go for it! I just don’t think it’s fair to think that your goal should be everyone else’s. 

But I digress. So let’s dive into what I believe is currently happening in the employment world around here. 

1: Finding Employment 

a. The hunt

The youth does not run around with ‘j’ai l’honneur” envelopes like in the past (I believe it’s called “I hereby” since the switch) because not only they gave up after realizing you do not find jobs around here but they find you– either through family or friends connections or internet connection when you’re lucky to apply in a company that still believes in ethics. 

b. The establishment 

Once the person has a job, they will spend the first year proving they deserve to be in the position, which can be quite confusing– how (not) to speak to the boss, how to keep your job by pleasing everybody, how to look like your job. The latter is the most expensive as one will spend lots of money on clothes, eating and hanging out in places that are way beyond their means just to “reflect” a certain status. Why is it important? Only those who come from nothing would understand. And so, this has lots of consequences on your finances, on which you are not educated. After all who would educate you? You could be the first person from your village to make it that far as a bank teller. And don’t get me wrong a bank teller is a very respected job, until we fill the city with enough ATM’s to do the job. You know the drill! If not, talk to former konvayeri about the Tap To Pay system in the buses. Beautiful! 

Stage 2: Adjustment 

At this stage, the person has learned all the tricks about keeping the job and more comfortable. However, every month their finances get worse because the need of validation and peer pressure makes them spend even more on things they don’t need. Adjusting means reducing on the outings and to break the pattern, guess what is the solution? Marriage because apparently it makes us more responsible thus stable. Whoever came up with such BS, Bravo!! 

Stage 3: Entrepreneurship 

After five years in employment and being told repetitively “You can be your own boss”, the person begins to look for business ideas. Usually google does it but then they need to be tested on those smart friends whom everyone praises but no one has a clue what they do for a living. It would take a “Go for it, get a loan and start!” and there the business plan is taken to the bank, which will approve if you speak good English and hang out with the bank’s unit managers. Meanwhile you’ve registered the business and printed business cards. You are now a CEO without an office or staff. At least you are a CEO and it makes the stats look good! Then what happens when the bank offers you the loan? You ball! Damn right! You buy a nice car and party because anyway, you’re smart and will make the money in no time. What you don’t realize is that the market is very volatile and nothing is for certain. Your list of “Most Successful Businesspeople in Rwanda” has probably shrunk at the time the issue was released. Lots of businesses have failed and no one wants to tell you why. Let me give you a tiny little example. Let’s say you open a small restaurant and by the time you equip it, renovate the space, you get notified that a road has to go through the space asap because we’re expecting a delegation from I don’t know where and they’ll need a new road or the area becomes a car-free zone. BAM! First shocker! But you’re strong and have some money left, so you move the business to another area that does not have your target audience. Now you are struggling to pay rent because it’s damn expensive for no freakin reason- There’s rarely running water and you have very limited parking space. At this point you don’t have much choice, your family has grown and so have the needs. Life gets harder by the day, the bank pressure rises, and eventually you decide to go back to employment so you can provide for your family while the business pays for its loan. You put a family member in charge but since they have no management skills, the business dies. You become blacklisted by banks, the business assets cannot be auctioned but the bank can console itself but hurting your feelings though– how about your portrait wanted for unpaid loan in a newspaper or inside the bank premises. That is a direct attack to your dignity and you cannot allow that to happen. So you leave the country as a solution because what can you do without money and credibility in a tiny environment where everyone knows about everyone, huh? 

Think about it 😉

Oh in all this I did not mention that RRA will be your companion throughout the process forever. You can leave, but taxes will never leave ya! As a matter of fact, they will grow behind your back as you grow older. 

#1Key 1Love

Thank You 

Thank you for your understanding and empathy;

Thank you for sparing the time to read my drafts in a world congested with information;

Thank you for looking for earplugs every time you see a 1key soundcloud link;

Thank you for spending your bundles watching my videos and interviews;

Thank you for being the best marketing team on the planet – you’ve got so much soul;

Thank you for spreading my words even though they may compromise your position from time to time;

Thank you standing up for me and many others;

Thank you for spending your savings on my shows;

Thank you my people for allowing me to be;

Thank you Rwandan diaspora for strengthening me;

Thank you la familia for respecting my choices and giving space for my voice to echo;

Thank you my fellow artist for constantly reminding me what my purpose is through your own creation;

Thank you my Natacha Muziramakenga for always standing by me even when I lose my way;

Thank you Mpinganzima for your kind heart and daily inspiration;

Thank you Isumbabyose Ismael for having a bigger picture of my vision;

Thank you Nelson Gashagaza for seeing the potential and pushing me to start;

Thank you Daniela Kampire for being a low key super fan and sponsor;

Thank you Muriel for spreading my work with so much pride – you make me smile a lot;

Thank you all social media fam for keeping up with my madness;

Thank you all that I won’t be able to name for your deeds speak for themselves;

Thank you all blogs, magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations who made room for me to express myself comfortably;

Thak you Innovation Village, Impact Hub, The Manor Hotel, CECYDAR for trusting me with your space – That’s huge!

Thank you all fans and friends across the globe, an artist is nothing without an audience. You validate my dreams. Our dreams. You are small but generous. You are my sponsors. You make it happen.

Thank you young-but-ready person for allowing my words to sink into your heart;

Thank you stranger for your talking to me as if we have known each other for years;

Thank you die hard fan for being part of the #expericment series. Episode 4 (The finale) happened yesterday – no official videos yet but I just gathered some pictures taken by friends

The set at sunset. Credit: Muriel Binamungu

The stage.  Credit: Nibagwire Dida

Babou Joe (right) co-hosting with Samson, one of the former street kids at CECYDAR. Very good entertainer. Credit: Ihozo Paula

El Fazo & Don Nova (right) spitting truth to the youth. Credit: Ihozo Paula

My nephew blown away by Elie’s skills while I was rhyming for the kids. Credit: Ihozo Paula

Deo Munyakazi strumming the Inanga, traditional zeither, while singing an old folklore tune to the modern youth.

As for the previous shows, here…

Episode 3 – #Sexpericment

Episode 2 – Storytelling

Episode 1 – Evolution

Thank you Rwanda,

Thank you Africa

Thank you world

Thank you Universe

1key, 1love

 

On that Diaspora / Panafricanism thingy

[Initially posted on my Facebook page on Sept 15th 2016]

When I hear the word “revolutionary,” I swear I kind of panic. There’s a certain spirit that comes with it. Not long ago, I went to a function in Kigali where people were calling each other comrades. Eh! That was too intimidating for me I swear. I felt like I was in a movie set in Europ in the mid 40’s.

When someone calls themselves a revolutionary, I wonder if they know what it means? To mean it’s simple, you are ready to die for benefits that others will enjoy and in the process you will do whatever it takes to make that happen. In the Rwandan context today, at the question “who are the others if we are one and all is good for everyone” I do not have any answer.
Just because I found a way to express my thoughts, that does not make me special. Everyone should be able to. There is no need for me to wear a beret or call myself an activist just because I am eloquent. I will not disrespect the blood of those who died so I can be free, live free, speak freely by leveling my little self to their immense courage. I will not either waste the opportunity to live the life they couldn’t just because of some walls of fear constructed around me. No! Their sacrifice would be a waste. So I am going to enjoy it so they can cheer, fist-bump from wherever they are, whenever they are watching me. Those are the true pan-africanists. I am just a guy behind a big smartphone’s screen enjoying privileges that about 99% of people around me do not have. Truth be told, we romanticize words such as patriotic, revolutionary, panafrican. They got a good sound to them, don’t they? They make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves yet we all know if anything happened that would jeopardize our comfort, we would be the first heading to the airport. Hey, we’ve got passports. It’s a luxury around here. If you don’t think it is, you probably have one or you live in a place where it’s a basic right. Probably education is, healthcare too. Well that’s the case around here (I am in Rwanda by the way) but we are working on these things and others. However we still have a long way to go.
I am not one of those who will lie to you that opportunities are abundant and birds are harvesting because we have too much. This is an internet era where you all have access to real information and not just reports. I will not sell to you the image of an expensive bling bling dome that we only take from afar while I forget the slum that is right behind it between Rugando and Kicukiro. I will not shout every day that we have the cleanest city on the continent while I haven’t showered for two days because some of us have given up on the idea of running water in our homes. I will not try to impress you with beautiful street lights around the city while everything outside is in complete dark and that power is no solar. I will not sell you the picture of buildings worth hundreds of millions of dollars when the locals cannot afford to conduct meaningful business into them and be able to pay rent at home. I will not lure engineers to drop their jobs and come work with us when I clearly know that we will not be able to pay you the quarter of what you are currently earning. I will not ask students to drop their education and come continue it here because my former colleagues barely have jobs; local engineers and scientists are teachers for lack of opportunities. I will not ask artists to stop their tours in Europe and America to come perform for empty seats because people do not have the luxury to attend 15$ shows unless it’s an annual event. I will not ask my aunties to stop washing dishes and old people because at least that money takes care of my grandma’s medical bills and rent while I am broke, not because I do not have the skillset and talent, but simply because the opportunities we talk about are just words that we pick up on the Internet. You know the saying, “The problem with people today is that they care more about looking successful than being successful”? Welcome to your country.
I do not mean to disrespect anybody or any effort. On the contrary, I salute this tremendous progress. It’s unbelievable to watch and be a part of it however. Maybe I’m too small-minded to catch up but please, show me, teach me, explain to me how politicians driving imported SUV’s worth $100,000 and living in $250,000 mansions while I can’t sleep on an empty stomach will make me dream big? Explain to me why we live in such parallel universes where my truth becomes a mere rant because it is not reflected in your reports? Explain to me how a car-free day for millions of people who can’t even dream to have a car today because import taxes are extremely high is such an important innovation? How millions of dollars have to be spent in setting 4G technology on buses for which I can barely afford 230Frw per trip are going to help me grow my beans when draught hits the land? Tell me why I shouldn’t try my luck elsewhere because I’m surviving at 35 while I should have started building a house for my mother already? Kuki abo turi kumwe bose bimyoza iyo ubabajije uko babayeho?

Dear Diaspora,
I will tell you this. We “returned” to Rwanda because it was time to. We needed to. Nobody forced us to. Do it in your time, at your own pace. It would be a shame if you came home and not find your place because you did not take an informed decision. Also keep in mind that you will NOT enjoy the comfort that you may have where you are right now unless you sacrifice years in making that happen.
When you come it is not to harvest as many would lie to you, it is to invest the (“little”) money you have and lots of sweat. Be prepared for realities that defy logic on so many levels and in so many ways but above all welcome to your home.
Amahoro.

1key, 1love.