70-year-old Bamurangirwa on finding her purpose through writing books

Patricia Bamurangirwa displays her latest books ‘Africanism’ and ‘New Rwanda’ during her interview at The New Times offices. Photos by Craish Bahizi

At the age of 70, Patricia Bamurangirwa has five books to her name, released in a span of seven years.

Born in Rwanda in 1949, Bamurangirwa’s family fled the country first as refugees to Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and later to Tanzania and Kenya. 

Shortly after they fled, her mother passed away and Bamurangirwa found herself deprived of an education and stable upbringing.

“When my family showed no interest in helping me to have more education it was really saddening. I partly attribute my family’s lack of interest in helping me to study more to my mother’s death, and also because I was a girl, and they were hoping that they would marry me off,” she says.

This, however, did not deter her determination to learn, reading all sorts of material in any language and learning from her age mates who had attained an education.

Becoming an author

In 1982, she decided to write her life experience with the hope that she would help someone, but faced discouragement from people. It was not until 2013 that she decided that she was going to put her material out.

Interested in the reason behind the conflict and violence Rwanda and its people suffered, she decided to write her first books, ‘Rwanda Yesterday’, and ‘Patriotism’ to set the record straight regarding the common myths about the history of Rwanda and its people. 

‘Rwanda Yesterday’ examines Rwanda under colonialism, when the Belgians devised an ethnic system that raised the Hutus above the Tutsis and laid the groundwork of the future tensions in the country. The book also seeks to provide some clarity on the cause rather than the effects of the current state of affairs, and how the country’s history has shaped the events of modern times.

Her second book ‘My Mother’s Dreams’ documents her struggles at a young age torn between her culture, her family, her pride and her rights. The autobiography was written to show that women can overcome anything.

“The books are mostly about my life experience but also, I like to learn a lot from people that I don’t know, and I love reading. At the time I thought of writing, I was taking notes in my head.

“Living as a refugee, I did not have the chance to be a child. In the short time I spent with my mother, she gave me advice that built me and made me a brave person, which inspired ‘My Mother’s Dreams’,” she says.

Today, she will be launching her latest books ‘New Rwanda’, from ‘Hell to Heaven’ and ‘Africanism’. The latter encourages young people to be proud of their heritage, background and ethnicity, while the former examines how Rwanda chose hope over hate and grew from the ashes of genocide to become a role model.

The idea of ‘New Rwanda’ came after she visited Rwanda in 2006, 11 years after her pervious visit. The transformation in just a decade inspired her to document the country’s journey from colonialism and the need for Africa to be fully independent.

“I realised that I didn’t know much about my country so the book was an appreciation to Rwandans, and to show the world how far we have come,” she says.

Her books are mostly targeted towards African youth whom she believes are the only weapon and future that the continent has.

“We see how young people sell their property to find a “brighter life” abroad. Our older generation is to blame because we were mentally enslaved and we passed it down to the younger generation.

“A time, however, will come when young people will make Africa a superpower again and fight the remaining colonisation for their future generation. Bleaching, straightening hair or even our colonial names will be something of the past.

“My belief is that it will start here in Rwanda and go around the continent because I trust Rwandans. If they managed to build this country in such a short time, then they can do miracles and young people can do bigger than what their parents did,” she says.

Her biggest achievement as an author, she says, is knowing that her books are creating an impact on her readers.

“When I meet someone who is excited to see me and tell me how much any of my books have impacted their lives, even if it is just one person, is satisfaction for me,” she says.

Her hope is to continue writing more books and inspire other people to follow their passion.


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