Blogging has come a long way from when it first became an internet phenomenon in the mid 1990s.
Then, and over the years, to blog almost always meant to share details of one’s personal life with a cyber community of followers. A blogger would for instance post about the weather when they woke up, how they dressed for work, what they ate for lunch or supper, and what time they checked out of work or into a movie.
Today, much of that has been relegated to other social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as blogging evolves into what has been termed the “next journalism frontier”.
Today, the standard practice is for bloggers to give little to no details about their personal lives in favor of a specific hobby or area of interest in their lives: Cooking, technology, fitness, sport, health, politics, music, art …the list goes on and on.
“Social media is undeniably a great power in modern society and regardless of the popular negative view that it consumes a lot of our time and so on, it does on the other hand allow us the freedom to share our views in a way that would otherwise be impossible,” contends Eric Mutsinzi, a young Rwandan blogger based in Kigali.
“I wouldn’t say there was an exact moment that revealed this to me, it was a gradual process I suppose,” he adds.
Mutsinzi is the brains behind mellowviews.com, an artsy blog that covers anything from art, culture, poetry, dance, music, to cinema and literature.
“Blogging is for me a difficult subject to discuss because the web, given that it isn’t controlled by anyone in particular, for the most part anyway, allows people the freedom to say anything they want. The challenge then becomes to use this power responsibly and produce blog posts that don’t lean too much towards an attitude of getting carried away. Of course the web is best kept open but for bloggers to make real change, I believe they must write from an informed point of view,” he argues.
At just 19 years of age, he is among the new crop of young, passionate Kigali bloggers that you’re likely to bump into at any of those artsy events that journalists from conventional media like to flock to. What’s more, he gets formal invitation to most of these gigs, perhaps a vote of confidence from local arts practitioners who recognize the limitations of traditional media in an internet age.
The blog is refreshingly devoid of clutter, and is divided into five sections; Home, Sounds, Art and Culture, Video, and About.
A quote by the philosopher Alain de Botton ushers one into the home page:
“We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture –and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.”
Under Sounds, one sees Soundcloud links to some local works, complete with short reviews –Mike Kayihura’s latest single, Mama and the City, rapper and poet Eric 1Key’s poem, I Miss My Ex, and Ubusa, by Old Jay, among others.
I ask him why the name, mellowviews and Mutsinzi directs me to the “About” section of the blog;
Mellow: adjective. Relaxed; calm; easygoing; laid-back.
Views: noun: personal perceptions; judgment, interpretation; opinions.
Mutsinzi is studying Computer Science at the University of Kigali. Currently, school and blogging take up the bigger part of his time.
“I’m interested in computational logic and artificial intelligence because of the vast possibilities brought about by automation and the resourcefulness of machines. I can’t say for sure what it is that I will do after my studies but it definitely might involve bridging technology and the arts,” he explains.
So is he an artist, a scientist, or both?
“That’s an important philosophical question,” he responds thoughtfully; “I find it difficult to define myself as one thing, say an artist, a scientist and so on. If I really had to, I would say I’m a Rwandan youth in search of the often overlooked truths of life.”
As a writer, he considers himself a work in progress; “I’m still in search of my artistic forte but I tend to lean more towards prose than I do poetry without wanting to. However my writing always tends to marry both.”
But even though Mellowviews is his personal project, he does not hoard all the attention and credits to himself. Instead, he works with nine other young people that he describes as “excellent writers”.
What’s more is that out of the nine, eight are girls, some based in Rwanda while others are pursuing studies abroad; Igihozo Gloria, Bwiza Charlotte, Ines Makuza, Uwera Nina Ntaganzwa, Teta Laeticia, Ben Rutabana, Mary Nzaramba, Keza Nzisabira, and Portia Uwase Zuba.
“Mellowviews is a result of many years of reading works from different writers and watching great films. It is a collaborative effort with a great team of writers to bring out the best of art in our region and beyond, together, and present it in an organized and easily digestible way. Most, if not all of them are close friends of mine. All the work is done remotely meaning that there is no office space so they send me their writing and I do necessary editing and then proceed to publish the posts.”
He is optimistic about the new wave of local social-media activists, and describes Kigali’s blogging scene as “blooming”.
“There are many talented writers in Kigali that I think should be read because they share their views in such interesting and innovative ways. I can only encourage the Rwandan readers to read just as deliberately and thoroughly as some of these writers write.”
I ask him a question that every blogger must contend with – that of whether there’s money to be made out of it anyway;
“Mellowviews does have the potential to generate revenue but that isn’t the main goal for now,” he clarifies. “My goal is to build a community of art and culture conscious individuals and not simply for the sake of doing so but because I believe this does pour into other aspects of life, be it engineering or relationships and so on. So I would say yes, there is an intrinsic drive towards sharing potentially life-changing snippets from some of art’s best.”
For inspiration, Mutsinzi looks in various places:
“My inspiration is often indirect and never entirely from one source. I can however say that there are a few individuals who have shaped to some extent the way I think creatively and so on, and that is the writer David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. My hope is that I can someday understand my culture well enough to be able to draw inspiration from it. At the moment, it would be pretentious of me to say that I do but that is gradually changing.”