F IS FOR FRANCE and R IS FOR RWANDA
Scholastique Mukasonga lost all but one member of her family in the Rwandan genocide, so this strongly informs her body of work. I have long wanted to read her, but by chance started with “The Barefoot Woman”, the second memoir Mukasonga wrote where special attention is paid to the inner workings of the female Tutsis both historically and in the refugee village on the border with Burundi, where Mukasonga’s whole family was relocated during the Hutu-Tutsi conflict.
What a book. It’s as if Scholastique Mukasonga works to subvert the othering by anthropologists of the indigenous African culture by reclaiming the gaze. The way she weaves her longing, her fascination with the bloody reality of having lost most of the participants of the narrative to the genocide, leads to a very interesting realization: we yearn for long lost civilizations, while losing others right by our side. I, too, come from a place where women and tradition, and belief reign, lost more sporadically to gentrification, capitalism and lack of insterest. And to observe this quiet dignity of Tutsi life in the refugee village was to me a revellation, a complete dismantling of values and a breath of fresh air.
The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga
Translated from French by Jordan Stump
Published by Archipelago Books in 2018