Mzungu

Mzungu (n., Swahili, used throughout East Africa) – “Someone who roams around aimlessly;” White person.

“Among these palm trees and vines, in this bush and jungle, the white man is a sort of outlandish and unseemly intruder. Pale, weak, his shirt drenched with sweat, his hair pasted down on his head, he is continually tormented by thirst, and feels impotent, melancholic. He is ever afraid: of mosquitoes, amoebas, scorpions, snakes–everything that moves fills him with fear, terror, panic.”

– Ryszard Kapuściński, The Shadow of the Sun

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On the Rwandan Genocide, Part Three: The Role of the West

“Much of [John Hanning] Speke’s Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile is devoted to descriptions of the physical and moral ugliness of Africa’s “primitive races,” in whose condition he found “a strikingly existing proof of the Holy Scriptures.” For his text, Speke took the story in Genesis 9, which tells how Noah, when he was just six hundred years old and had safely skippered his ark over the flood to dry land, got drunk and passed out naked in his tent. On emerging from his oblivion, Noah learned that his youngest son, Ham, had seen him naked; that Ham had told his brothers, Shem and Japheth, of the spectacle; and that Shem and Japheth had, with their backs chastely turned, covered the old man with a garment. Noah responded by cursing the progeny of Ham’s son, Canaan, saying, “A slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” Amid the perplexities of Genesis, this is one of the most enigmatic stories, and it has been subjected to many bewildering interpretations–most notably that Ham was the original black man.”

– Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with our Families

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On the Rwandan Genocide, Part One: Rwanda’s Shadow

“The most terrifying fact is that people who only yesterday were guilty of nothing today were murdering other completely innocent people”  

– Ryszard Kapuściński, The Shadow of the Sun

“They were not angry, as I thought they would be, but happy. It was like a party. Burning the houses was like some sort of amusement for them.”

– Joseph Sebarenzi, God Sleeps in Rwanda

“[T]he earth is falling apart before our eyes and humans are turning into demons.”

– Gil Courtemanche, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

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The Morning Sun

“More than anything, one is struck by the light. Light everywhere. Brightness everywhere. Everywhere, the sun.”

– Ryszard Kapuściński, The Shadow of the Sun

African Sun through curtains in Rwanda

It’s been impossible so far for me to sleep past 5:30 a.m. in this blindingly radiant land. The wild morning sun barges in, laughing at my impotent blinds, and lovingly pries my eyes open, slaps me in the face, and tells me to get my white ass out of bed and appreciate the impossibly gorgeous Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda. Continue reading

Clouds Over Kigali

My relationship with Rwanda began with total rejection. I went there for two months last summer to do an internship with a local newspaper.

As our small, half-empty plane attempted to descend upon it, Kigali deployed the most beautiful fortifications I have ever seen. The city laughed in our silly pasty-white muzungu (non-African) faces while managing to seduce us at the same time.

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