A couple of days ago, a local musician found herself on the wrong side of the cultural police. She had ruffled a few feathers due to a new song she had just released and the sleeve design of the cover that featured the tattooed backside of a nude woman.
Social media was set ablaze, local talk shows made it a hot topic and the head of a government institution that acts as a curator for national culture, norms and values was even more incensed and stripped her of her right to be referred to as “Intore”.
Intore (the chosen) was a kind of finishing school where young men attended to learn military skills, governance culture and dance. Women were not part of Intore. They had their own finishing schools in their homes or with the aid of close relatives.
The incident gave birth to a hot debate and the logic of a government agency bringing upon itself to serve as a cultural police. Others on the other side were worried that western decadence was taking over our youth and eating away at the “traditional values”.
Then a twitter feed by the University of Rwanda this week advised male students to wear ties for their graduation, it went even as far as showing them examples of the dress code. Whoever posted the message was definitely very detached to our “cultural values” as there was no mention of our traditional “Imicyenyero” or what the ladies should wear.
In these modern times, it is easy to hurt the sensitivities of others and culture is one very vulnerable area. But culture evolves and people should be ready to move with the flow. Decades ago young women wore a simple loincloth and were bare-chested; today the simple wearing of a miniskirt causes a near-riot.
A cultural debate is really needed, but it needs cool heads, not fundamentalism or bigotry.