Arts + Culture

NextGen: Congolese Author Sandra Uwiringiyimana Writes to Keep the African Spirit Alive

The 22-year-old survivor of the Gatumba massacre shares her perspective of Afrofuturism with OkayAfrica in 'NextGen.'

DIASPORAOver the course of July we'll be publishing short profiles, essays and interviews on the theme of "Afrofutures." Together these stories will be a deep dive into the way African and diaspora thinkers, technologists and artists view a future for Africans in the world and outside of it. 


Take a look at our introduction to Afrofuturism here.

Throughout this month, we'll also highlight and celebrate young, leading talents who already put into practice what a future with black people look like through their work in our daily profile series, 'NextGen.'

To close out our series, meet Congolese author Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana is a 22-year-old author, activist and speaker from the Democratic Republic o f the Congo. As co-founder of the Jimbere Fund, an organization that aims to revitalize distressed communities in the DRC, she helps people in need in vulnerable areas and fights against poverty. Uwiringiyimana's memoir, How Dare The Sun Rise (Harper Collins), sheds light on her experience of being a refugee and battling trauma.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

Since her family’s resettlement in the United States in 2007, Sandra has used her experience to fight against the social injustice that occurred at the Gatumba massacre and has become a voice for women and girls, refugees and immigrants who have been often overlooked and undervalued. In telling her story, Sandra has shared the world stage with Charlie Rose, Angelina Jolie, and Tina Brown and has spoken at the Women in the World Summit in 2016 while she was still in university. In addition, she has addressed the United Nations Security Council at the request of Ambassador Samantha Power to plead with world leaders to act on the pressing issue of children in armed conflict.

For Uwiringiyimana, Afrofuturism is a vital part of her spreading her message. She believes it means “living in a world that allows black children and youth to see themselves represented in every aspect of society."

Photo by Rick Wenner, courtesy of Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

She continues:

"It means little black girls growing up appreciating their bodies and features. Afrofuturism means not having to tone down my blackness in order to seem more approachable or trustworthy; it means seeing every kind of black person represented, valued and validated," she says.

Sandra is an example of being an African leader and educating those who may not fully understand the African experience. “I want to show young Africans that we are allowed to be multidimensional. I decided to write a memoir at 22 because I was tired of reading stories that didn't reflect my Africa. My greatest hope is that through my activism and work I can demonstrate how to shed light on the problems of many African countries without making it the only narrative that's picked up by the rest of the world. We have many stories to tell and not all of them begin and end with despair. We are artists, adventurers, leaders, and so much more. We are all valid and deserve adequate representation. We do not need western saviors, we need more young Africans to invest in Africa; not just financially but investing our time to learn our history, who we were before all the brainwashing. It is our duty to keep the true African spirit alive and it is ultimately the only way to save ourselves."

Audio
(Youtube)

7 Gengetone Acts You Need to Check Out

The streets speak gengetone: Kenya's gengetone sound is reverberating across East Africa and the world, get to know its main purveyors.

Sailors' "Wamlambez!"Wamlambez!" which roughly translates to "those who lick," is the cry the reverberated round the world, pushing the gengetone sound to the global stage. The response "wamnyonyez" roughly translates to "those who suck" and that should tell you all you need to know about the genre.

Known for its lewd lyrics and repetitive (often call and response) hooks, gengetone makes no apologies for belonging to the streets. First of all, most artists that create gengetone are grouped into bands with a few outliers like Zzero Sufuri riding solo. The songs themselves often feature a multiplicity of voices with screams and crowds coming through as ad libs, adding to this idea that this is definitely "outside" music.

Listening to Odi wa Muranga play with his vocal on the track "Thao" it's easy to think that this is the first, but gengetone fits snuggly in a history of sheng rap based on the kapuka style beat. Kapuka is onomatopoeically named, the beats have that repetitive drum-hat-drum skip that sounds like pu-ka-pu-ka-pu. Artists like Nonini were asking women to come over using this riff long before Ochungulo family told them to stay home if they aren't willing to give it up.

Here's seven gengetone groups worth listening to.

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