Writing birds of a feather flock to Plume d’Or

Posted: January 3, 2012 in Arts, Education, Politics

While so far Rwanda has not really been an encouraging environment for would-be writers, the association Plume d’Or is trying to change that.

Jean Baptiste Rufatabahizi, is a 58-year-old lecturer at the KIST; in his spare time, he is also a writer of romantic novels but until now, none of his three booksGrace Uwonkunda’s Secret; Claudine Rebero and George Mugohe; and Vanessa Kanombe’s Husband’s Dreams – has found a publisher in Rwanda. Therefore, he has turned to online E-book sellers to advertise his books, but he would still love to see his novels published in paper format.

“I would be very happy if my books were published, but the few publishing companies, even if they are interested, will charge you money. Financial instability still hinders the writing industry in Rwanda – otherwise, there are many people who want to write,” Rufatabahizi remarks.

In addition, he says, there is also a lack of reading and writing culture. “Children should be taught the spirit of reading omnivorously at an early level of education,” he argues, adding that he believes in the power of writing and thinks writing as a talent can improve someone’s life and even be a profession.

“Of course, in Rwanda I don’t know anybody who can live of his writing, but there are lots of them around the world. And successful writer don’t go into retirement, you just write until you die,” Rufatabahizi asserted.

There is a glimmer of hope, though, in the form of “Plume d’Or” (Golden Quill), a writers association of which Rufatabahizi is a member.  The executive secretary of the association, Louis Basengo Munyaburanga, thinks that the journey is still long, and acknowledges that because it is still young Plume d’Or hasn’t yet achieved a lot. Yet he says that the association has been trying to provide a foundation to the writing industry and that there is optimism that its activities will be stepped up.

“We begun in 2009 and so far we have registered a number of 30 active and well-assessed writers; our objective from the beginning was first to establish a framework where writers can have a platform of advocacy and a consolidated organization, and then move to the implementation stage of developing the writing industry,” Munyaburanga explains.

Publishing house

Munyaburanga adds that according to the action plan, in the next months the association will be hosting conferences in various universities to present various books and holding panels for assessment by intellectuals and the public – this will also be done as a means to improve the capacities of the writers. There will also be writing contests held in schools.

 

“Rwandans have numerous stories to tell to the world and it is our role to market them and make them known through writing and cultural expression. People write but few publish their stories, and we want to intervene by supporting these writers to have their work published,” Munyaburanga explains. “We are now working with publishers in and outside the country so as to help talented writers. We are also projecting to have our own publishing house though we can’t yet say when.”

As for the styles of writing they wish to develop for Rwandan writers to gain international recognition, Basengo says that it is up to the writer has to develop his story as long as it is inspired, although it is true that editors and publishers will always use certain literary yardsticks.

The government is not idle either. According to Olivier Karambizi, the public reading officer at the ministry of sports and culture, the institution first wants to create a clear and well-organized legal framework for writers. In addition, the ministry is also developing a policy that will deal with libraries, publishing companies, etc.

“I believe with the established government systems relating mainly to culture and education, we will soon begin to reap the fruits,” Karambizi says. “The writers are there but they lack legal frameworks for clear planning; the ministry, through formulation of cultural policies is addressing that. We are also trying to involve different partners, mainly NGOs, which will support all these initiatives.”

 

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