Karambizi on why she wants to write more African stories

Natacha Karambizi is a student in the US and the author of “Mahoro”, a book about a little girl’s search for peace, which was released in August last year. The book also highlights the life that hundreds of children in Rwanda went through as a result of the relentless and dark chaos that stalked the country. 

This fictional story was inspired by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi  in Rwanda and explores how the community dealt with the consequences of the Genocide and set out to reconstruct a new Rwanda. 

Karambizi had a chat with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about the book.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Rwanda in 1992. I got my primary and secondary education in Rwanda, then moved to the US in 2010 for college. I got a chemistry degree from Converse College and I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in biological sciences at Clemson University.

I loved to read from a very young age. I remember staying up late to finish a fascinating book. I also wrote some stories during that time, but writing was not a career that I thought of as an option at the time, mainly because I had no role models to look up to.
 
Tell us about your book. What inspired this particular story?

Most of my writing is comprised of realistic fictional short stories. Mahoro was originally a short story. I mainly wrote Mahoro with my generation in mind. There aren’t many stories out there about how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi affected individuals who were children at the time. I was only two years during the Genocide, so I have no personal memories of it.

And yet so much of my life has been affected by its consequences. So I started from a perspective of children who were a bit older, who had an understanding of what was happening (albeit limitedly). Resilience is a recurrent theme throughout the book because it is my opinion that it truly took a great deal of strength for such children to grow up into adults.  

It’s not easy to pinpoint to a specific fact or event that inspired this story. I just felt that it was a story that needed to be told, even if only to create space for certain conversations to be held or certain struggles to be acknowledged.

  What went through your mind before writing this book and can you say they are being achieved?

My intention was to write a book mainly for Rwandans to read and relate to. For people to say,” I see myself in this.” Or, “I empathise with this.” And I think I have has achieved that to a certain degree from the personal messages I got from people who have read the book. I still think that more can be achieved but, so far, I am grateful for the response it has received.
 
How long did it take you to write the book and how was the experience like?

I originally wrote a short story in September 2016. I started working on the book in December and finished it around April. Writing the book was a great learning experience. Previously, I had only written leisurely. It was a different experience writing with a deadline in mind and knowing that it was going to be read by a large number of people than I was used to. Suddenly, I was more aware of my style, and whether the readers were going to relate to it. Overall, it was a positive experience and an amazing growth opportunity. Seeing the final product was greatly rewarding and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment.
 
Do you have plans of writing other books? On what other subjects would you like to write about?Yes, I would love to write more books. I am interested in exploring subjects that are essentially Rwandan and African. My hope is to contribute to the growing reading and writing culture in Rwanda centered on authentically Rwandan stories written in a creative way. 
 

 

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