Back straighter than a flagpole,
gait steadier than an anthem;
kilos of kindling top her head,
a jerry can in a hand,
Mama carries a machete in the other.
She carries a baby on her back.
Mama carries the future on her back.
She carries her country, men.
If Mama were to tire (don’t worry, she won’t),
if she needs to take a rest (don’t worry, she doesn’t),
would you carry Mama for a time?
Per its abbreviated nature, this grammar does not seek to present an all-encompassing description of Rwandan’s rich inventory of forms and sounds. For instance, the great gap between highest high vowel and lowest low valley is left for later editions. Decentralization of sounds is also unaddressed; its heavy politics better explained by a native speaker. To glean a deeper understanding, the author encourages readers to explore for themselves, in-person. Indeed, this is the only way to truly understand Rwandan’s speakers. Immersed in authentic forms, in the pragmatic realities, the routine movements, the so-called norms–then one can know.
Until such travel is possible or later editions arrive, may this brief description suffice.
The first time she knew that she was different was in primary school. One day, her teacher instructed the children to divide themselves by Tutsi and Hutu. Some children knew what this meant. Among those who did not, she hesitated. After pause, she made her own choice and simply sat in the front row. This is where the best students sat on any other day. She sat because that is where she wanted to be.