The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie has written movingly of the danger of telling a single story about Africa, of compressing a vast continent and its equally sprawling history into a paper-thin narrative of poverty, war, and dispossession (set, of course, against a backdrop of exotic scenery and noble wildlife). But here in Rwanda, I’m finding my problem is just the opposite. The stories are everywhere, sprawling and intricate and vivid. Some are vast and hard to look at straight on – like the rows of skulls and femurs arranged in neat, loving rows on shelves at the back of a church where, 21 years ago, a town turned on itself, and villagers hacked 10,000 of their neighbors to death with machetes.
Others, though, are so small they flutter by almost unnoticed. Yesterday, for instance, Karen and I met this woman outside her mud-brick house in a village in the Rwandan district of Nyagatare. As we talked to her about life in the village, the heavy lidded baby on her back eyed us curiously. What’s your daughter’s name? Karen finally asked her. Without missing a beat, she looked at us and said, “Beyoncé.”
-Ryan Lenora Brown