Timothy Njoroge is a leading Rwandan writer. Njoroge was born in Masisi in Democratic Republic of Congo but moved to Kenya at the age of fourteen. He attended Aga Khan High school before joining the University of Nairobi where he pursued a Bachelors Degree in Education. He attained a Post Graduate Diploma in Curriculum Development from the University of London.
Recently, Njoroge represented Rwanda in the concluded International Conference of African Writers that was held in Addis Ababa. The theme for the conference was “From the Independence of the Continent to the Liberation of the Mind: the Unfinished Journey.”
Currently serving as an English and French teacher at the Kigali Independent University (ULK)-Gisenyi Branch,Timothy Njoroge talked to Doreen Umutesi of The New Times about the major landmarks in Rwanda’s world of Literature.
How many books have you Written?
Besides writing “From the heart of Africa”, I wrote ‘Masai Language and Culture Dictionary’ although it doesn’t have an ISBN.
I’m planning to make a cartoon story out of the stories in “From the Heart of Africa”. The Book is made up of a collection of fifteen short stories.
What are the stories about?
These are stories that depict the positive values that identified who a Rwandan was before colonialism. For instance, what people should know about Rwanda in terms of culture and character.
It is a collection of things that differentiates people; they could be actions or the food they eat, the dressing and character.
Therefore, the things that defined a Rwandan before colonialism included; courage, love, perseverance, patriotism and so many other traits.
These values where killed by colonialists systematically, slowly by slowly to the extent that by 1994 there was nothing left. This was why it was possible for genocide to take place.
If there were at least 20 percent of the positive values in the Rwandan society at that time, the genocide could not have happened.
That is why I was provoked to write this particular book. The purpose of writing it was to highlight traits that identified a Rwandan in the earlier days so that our young people can learn something positive from our culture.
I believe it is very important for people to have a culture. The stories are relevant and they suit all age groups.
How did you get to know about the stories about the pre- colonial era?
Myths are imaginary stories which use names of people, animals and place introducing a certain situation to the force of nature. They were invented by our fore fathers who passed them on to us from generation to generation.
Myths embrace the whole culture structure of any given society in order to encourage a common conscience and develop certain key cultural values such as love, courage, patience as well as tolerance and kindness.
These virtues were very crucial for the survival of the pre-colonial Rwandan state. They served as a yardstick which determined good leadership and ensured stability for the sake of the entire society.
Three of the stories in this book where passed on to me by my mother.
Although my mother could not read, she kept on telling these stories and they impacted my life and my siblings.
How were you involved in this year’s International Conference of African Writers in Addis Ababa?
Being a member of the Rwandan Writers Association, I was invited for the conference, to represent Rwanda.
My presentation at the conference, was based on the thinking that Culture is a key ingredient of the development of the mind.
As we embrace new forms of development, it is important to develop a human being through cultivating into that person all the positive values that our society expects.
Even animals must have a culture in order for them to survive. A close look into a beehive reveals that bees are some of the most disciplined insects. Their primary objective is to make honey, feed their queen and protect their beehive. In order to achieve their objective, bees must wake up very early in the morning and travel as far as ten Kilometers to collect pollen.
After delivering it to the beehive, they linger around their hive to watch for any intruder who may want to steal their honey. Unlike man who can conspire with foreigners to destroy his own country, bees will fight tooth and nail by stinging any intruder, sometimes to death, in a bid to protect their beehive and its contents.
Culture is a very strong bond that ties the people of a region or community together. It is a pillar for any society’s development. The development is evidenced in developed countries such as Japan, China and South Korea. This is why I strongly believe that an uncultured society is like a gang of hungry hyenas whose only objective is to fill their tummies.
What are your prospects as a writer?
‘From the Heart of Africa’ is a project and publishing it was the first phases. The second phase will be publishing two cartoon books that will be published this year. The stories in cartoon form will be “Ngunda” and “Namwete ndabinkuze”.
All the stories in “From the Heart of Africa” will be published in cartoon form and in Kinyarwanda.
Phase three of the project involves putting the cartoon in motion form.
What is your view on the growth of literature in Rwanda?
The Ministry of Education has to introduce the literature subject in schools. When people read literature, they get to know about life in a broader perspective.
Literature enhances positive values in life especially moral conduct thus ensuring the greater good within society.
If literature is embraced in Rwanda, it eases the culture of reading. I have made it in life because I embraced literature while at school.
What is your view about Copyrights?
I believe all books should have copyrights and an ISBN so that not everyone can claim your story and use it .