Netherland-based Rwandan author, Joy Nzamwita Uwanziga, is passionate about her motherland and the traditions that define it. Her book, ‘Manners in Rwanda’ was among the 100 best-selling on Amazon--it ranked 10th in July this year. The book gives in-depth insights into the country’s history, cultural and societal values, as well as emerging trends. The author shared with Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa the inspiration behind the book.
Who is Joy Nzamwita Uwanziga?
I was born 29 years ago in Uganda and I am the second born in a family of seven. I was raised in Kigali, Rwanda and graduated with a degree in Social Sciences from the University of Rwanda. I also did a Master of Arts at International School of Protocol and Diplomacy, in Brussels. I live and work in The Hague. I am married with two children.
Tell us about your book-“Manners in Rwanda”
Manners in Rwanda was published in May this year by an American publishing house called Inkwater Press based in Portland, USA. The book gives detailed insight into cultural experiences and a whole array of Rwandan history and societal values and trends. It is a blend of classic and contemporary Rwanda. It is highly recommended for tourists, scholars and linguists. Marriage is a very fundamental aspect in Rwandan culture.
The book breaks down all the marriage rituals of the bride and bridegroom. It explains Rwandan courtship, engagement, marriage, bridal showers, sex in marriage and many more interesting things. Sex and intimacy are key elements of marriage. Young girls most of the time are taught this matter by their female older relatives.
What inspired you to write about Rwandan culture?
My passion for languages and people’s social lives and culture led me to think about those who visit my motherland, Rwanda. Having lived in The Netherlands for almost eight years, I have come to appreciate that knowing the language spoken in a country you are in is a valuable tool. The uncertainty I felt in not knowing Dutch, gave me a push to learn the language, but I also have a passion for languages in general. I visited China several times and greatly enjoyed their colourful country, but the language barrier almost ruined my time there. It was in this context that the idea of writing this book came to my mind. In addition, I feel that, for many Rwandans who live outside Rwanda, it is quite easy to forget all about their culture or not even know anything about it, and this is especially true for the younger generation.
What was it like writing the book?
Writing a book is not easy; getting it published is even more challenging. Every writer started somewhere, and most of them started by squeezing their writing into the cracks of their daily lives, and that’s what I did. It took me four years to get it published. I remember the very first time I submitted my first draft to a publishing house and they called me two days after to inform me how good my manuscript was and how happy they were to work with me. I was so honored to hear that, since I sent it to them thinking that it could be rejected. It happens to so many writers. It gave me courage and gave me confidence to do the rest of the work that I had to do on the book till it got published. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken me such a long time, but it is because of the research I had to do, doing it while taking care of my family, finishing my Masters and working about 40 hours a week.
So what’s next?
On 25 and 26 September 2015, I will attend the DRONGO Language Festival in Utrecht which is expected to attract about 5000 visitors, 70 per cent of whom are language professionals. It will be a good opportunity to showcase what my country has to offer and the uniqueness of our culture. It’s the place to be for anyone interested in linguistics. In October, from 14 to 18, I will be in Frankfurt, Germany for the International Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) where “Manners in Rwanda”will feature strongly. It is the biggest book fair in the world.
The book will be featured and will be on sale in a series of Intercultural festivals in The United Kingdom, New York, and other places. On writing more books, I have already started the next one. I was contacted by a publishing house in the United Kingdom recently requesting me to write three books and that the rest will be done by them (editing, designing, and publishing) at no extra costs. That was so encouraging and exciting news for me.
What is your philosophy in life?
My philosophy in life is a combination of quotes I have gathered over time that describe my thoughts on life. I have learned that it’s easy to focus on myself, and it takes a person with a heart to look around.
Who do you look up to?
My uncle Col. Eugene Nkubito is my greatest inspiration and motivation. He is a great man, courageous and a genius. I admire him a lot.
What message do you have for young girls who look up to you?
There are plenty of opportunities for women, especially young girls. All you need is to convince yourself that you can do something. I want to encourage women out there to write because I believe almost everyone has a book in them, and if I did it, you can do it too.
The book can be found on Amazon.com, inkwaterpress.com, Barnes&Nobles, Powells, ebay, bol.com, etcetera. It can also be ordered via any bookstore in any country by giving its ISBN which is: 9781629012544.
In Rwanda, you can find it in Ikirezi Library, Caritas, Excel Bookshop at the MTN Centre, and at School Books distributors located at Gishushu.