‘Murika’ How young Rwandans use animations to boost reading

It’s a common adage that if you want to hide something from people, put it in a book. While there have been efforts by several institutions to improve the reading culture of Rwandans, a group of young people designed a new concept, ‘Murika’, meaning spotlight, to contribute to this purpose.
The founders of Murika at their office, from left to right Simeon Hagguiryayo, David Ndahirikiye, David Kanyembuga,  their techician David Sindambiwe, and Fidel Rukundo. Courtesy.
The founders of Murika at their office, from left to right Simeon Hagguiryayo, David Ndahirikiye, David Kanyembuga, their techician David Sindambiwe, and Fidel Rukundo. Courtesy.

It’s a common adage that if you want to hide something from people, put it in a book. While there have been efforts by several institutions to improve the reading culture of Rwandans, a group of young people designed a new concept, ‘Murika’, meaning spotlight, to contribute to this purpose.

Murika was founded by five young people in their early 20s, who create graphic illustrations that in under ten minutes, summarise different books, written by renowned authors in the fields of business and psychology.

The stories are translated in Kinyarwanda and aim at attracting young Rwandans to read more self-help books to improve their knowledge while also promoting the books. The videos are posted on Murika’s social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram at no cost and are also aired on TV10.

In a moderately small office, located at the Kigali Free Trade Zone, is the hub of these creative minds. David Ndahiriwe is one of the founders and the notion graphic artist and he explains the essence of creating the illustrations.

“It bothers us that young people are comfortable with not reading books. By making these videos someone out there will be encouraged to read one book.

These short videos make the books easy to understand.”

“Reading books wasn’t my thing but I took baby steps, reading one book at a time and now I enjoy reading. This is what we are trying to do, making reading fun for young people,” he adds.

Murika was created in june last year and with the increasing number of subscribers on YouTube and followers on Facebook the founders believe, that the videos contribute to changing the social mind of youth.

For months, the Murika members have perfected their art and it is not surprising that the feedback so far is promising.

Fidel Rukundo, who doubles as the CEO and script writer further reveals that a big number of their audience has expressed their interest in the books although their biggest challenge still remains “getting the viewers to actually get to read the books.”

“At the beginning we were targeting the youth but now even older people are showing interest. The videos are made to encourage people to read books but it’s a challenge that some don’t actually read the books. It ends at being entertained and enjoying our videos.”

“We are slowly getting there though, since we are also trying to expand our platform further and the feedback is encouraging. Being young, we feel we can contribute to the wellbeing of society. We are all playing our roles although we all contribute ideas in making this happen,” he says.

Simeon Hagguirayo, in charge of operations admits the beginning was challenging for them having started from scratch, and explaining to people about the concept.

“We were advised to give up and told that we were wasting our time. Some of us actually had no experience in graphic design, yet mastering software requires time and we all use different softwares.”

“Our motivation however came through reading and we believe that this will have a bigger impact in society and people will learn to actually read,” he says.

The quintet will this year publish their first book, dedicated specifically to the youth. The book is in line with their vision, to enlighten the youth, although Hagguirayo also stresses that their mission goes far beyond reading books.

“We are not telling people to just read books. After that, so what? We are telling people that there is knowledge hidden in books, written by wise people. Great philosophers have written books because they believe that their knowledge can benefit society.”

“We want them to learn the moral of the stories and find purpose in reading the book. The books that we illustrate are selective because we also look for books that are informative and are able to open people’s minds,” he says.

He speaks gleefully of the future of Murika.

“Two years from now, we hope that with this small team we will have a huge impact on society and that people will learn to read. Our journey so far has taught us how to overcome fear and that failure is part of the process which is what has kept us moving. We began with sharing knowledge, learned from successful people through their books, how they have excelled and while we are learning we are also teaching others,” he says.

He likens their determination to a story by Prentice Mulford in his book, “Things are Thoughts”, which they illustrate in one of their videos.

“A story was told of how an army commander took his soldiers to battle and burned the boats that transported them to the battlefield to signify that there was no retreat. It’s either they win the battle or they die.

That’s the situation we are in right now. It wasn’t easy finally deciding to start on this project but many young people have thought of what they can do to contribute to society, and this is our way”.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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