Koulsy Lamko is a writer and university lecturer from Chad. As a quest of Amsterdam Vluchtstad he currently resides in the Netherlands. For The Power of Culture he made a personal, literary portrait of the Rwandese women's drum group Ingoma Nsyha. Lamko resided in Rwanda in the early nineties and he wrote down his experiences in the novel La phalène des collines.

Drumming amazons

June 2009 -

If history would open a door on Ingoma, the royal tambourine, then it would beat with splendour and solemnity the following words: "I planted governments in the heart of Africa, I honoured monarchs, built prosperous dynasties. I am a kingdom!"


Performance of Ingoma Nsyha in Rwanda. Photo: CUA-UNR

Here and now, it is rather about revolutions : one of the desire to submit, of beauty, of art and tenderness and those bring together a group of eight Rwandese women to take power of the holy tambourine of the past, what used to be reserved for men and the Mwami court only; to say the unspeakable of their offended heart by beating with their female hands the rythms of survival, of rebirth, of hope, of inevitable resilience.

Already five years these amazons of drum art travel the flowered earth of Rwanda, and wherever they rage in the world, they seduce the public more and more ! They have decided to call themselves Ingoma Nshya, not only to brave the forbidden custom, but also with the aim to draw the tradition with new colours, to give it new zest and to, for themselves, regild the image of the woman. To call for concern for all the challenges of the reconciliation and reconstruction of Rwanda, that was profoundly torn apart by this atrocious and horrific genocide in 1994.

Here and now, since two weeks in Tilburg, Utrecht, Dordrecht, etc… the slender guide, caresses the sides of the ishakwe drum, then beats it, invites it to discuss with the public. And she invites the other female musicians to enter the rythm either in chorus or as a solo, to tell about the country of thousand hills, standing assured, and ready to partake in its experiences and its culture that is changing constantly. Now back to reality : the Netherlands are attentively listening to the cultural intiatives in the world, which they encourage and support. Now Ignoma Nshya is invited by the Festival Mundial in Tilburg !

When Odile Gakire Katese, responsable for the University Centre of Arts of the National University in Rwanda, founded Ingoma Nshya, she would not have believed the probable success it would have. But who would have doubted? The tambourine is eternal ! Long career and above all the joy that Jacqueline Umubyeyi and her sisters have to play it.

At the invitation of Mundial Productions Ingoma Nshya is on tour in the Netherlands 28 May - 21 juni 2009 as part of the Festival Mundial Weeks.