A dying old man is like a burning library; seize the golden opportunity

Editor,I can fully relate to what Sunny Ntayombya wrote. We have also just laid my centenarian mother to her last resting place.
Rwandans should make it a habit to record their grandparents before they pass away. They say that the death of an unrecorded old man is like a burning library. Net photo.
Rwandans should make it a habit to record their grandparents before they pass away. They say that the death of an unrecorded old man is like a burning library. Net photo.

Editor,

I can fully relate to what Sunny Ntayombya wrote. We have also just laid my centenarian mother to her last resting place.

Her life perfectly mirrored our country’s turbulent history: From the German East Africa period, the replacement of the Germans by the Belgians in 1916, the forced abdication and exiling of King Yuhi V Musinga, the enthronement of his son King Mutara III Rudahigwa, the mass Christianisation that followed in 1933, the assassination of King Rudahigwa, the beginning and the decades of exile, first in Tanzania and then Uganda, to the liberation struggle until we returned to our motherland.

My biggest regret is to never have made sufficient time to record my mother over time to ensure an extended voice and visual record of our family and national history as she lived and/or felt it.

I sincerely hope that those who still have old relatives (parents, grand-parents, great grand-parents, uncles, aunts, etc.) should not lose the opportunity to ask them about their lives for eventual transcription as source material for biographies that might give us a panoramic view of our history, from different personal perspectives.

Not doing this exposes us to the risk of losing a lot of irreplaceable knowledge of our national history, especially given the fact we are and have always been an oral history people.


Mwene Kalinda, Kigali, Rwanda

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I always enjoy Sunny Ntayombya’s opinions. I am asking him to keep up the great work that he’s doing. This opinion about embracing our living heritage before it’s too late reminded mine back in early 2000 when I also missed a golden opportunity to spend more time to visit and interact with my grandmother who was full of wisdom and stories to tell.

It is only when she passed away that I realised that I should have visited her more! So the lesson for those who still have a privilege to have grandparents, please seize the golden opportunity now. And please remember the great adage from the great Professor Cheik Anta Diop, that “Un vieux qui meurt est comme une bibliothèque qui brûle” – or “When an old man dies, it’s like a burning library”.

Lorenzo, Houston, Texas, United States

Reactions to Sunny Ntayombya’s opinion, “Let us embrace our living heritage before it’s too late”, (The New Times, July 10)

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