In recent years some Rwandans have written and published books about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi; but there is still a need for materials written by Rwandan authors who understand the country’s past and present.
Rwandans can also write books on other subjects that will be used to educate and inform the wider society.
While a reading and writing culture is still relatively low across the country, there are many compelling Rwandan stories to tell that can change and inspire the lives of others in one way and the other.
It is important to tell these Rwandan stories to preserve our history and memory. However, aspiring authors face various challenges related to the local publishing industry, which is still relatively young with few modern publishers, limited writing skills and lack of financial means to get their works published and marketed to their targeted audience.
Some authors who have managed to release books are encouraging others to do so, but they face many challenges that will discourage upcoming writers and hinder a writing culture in our country.
For instance some struggle to get their manuscripts to an editor.
It is also not enough to have stories to tell, there are literary methods to write various genres of books. Mentorship can be used to help upcoming writers. Currently most books about Rwanda that have attracted international readers have been published by western scholars and publishers.
However there are also some stories published locally including children’s books, comics and novels. Some local publishers have partnered with regional peers to help local talented writers, a model that can be emulated.
For instance, Huza Press partnered with Kenya’s Kwani Trust to publish compelling stories written by young storytellers in a multimedia imprint called Radiobook Rwanda. It requires courage to publish books that only few people will read.
Given that the reading culture is also sluggish, only a few people can buy books. Therefore, it is crucial that the Ministry of Education considers adapting some of these books by Rwandans not only to support local publishers but also promote a reading culture.
In a digital era, the Internet has made it easier for book sales amid growing e-commerce platforms that are used to market and sell books online. Additionally there are also other online platforms that are being used to promote books online and can reach a global audience.
Local writers and aspiring authors can use them to market their literary works. The need for stories and materials written by local writers will turn around the publishing industry, promote Rwandan narratives, boost the writing culture.
More effort is needed to make books more accessible to ordinary citizens everywhere in the country as it will promote a reading culture.
Rwandans need to adopt a writing culture to document their history, preserve memory for future generations, share knowledge and promote their narrative to the world.