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Redemption song for a new generation in Rwanda

16-year-old Annick delivers a message of hope and courage on the streets of Kigali

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Talented young Annick Gikundiro

Writing poetry is one thing, reciting your own work in public quite another. Performing before a crowd takes confidence and courage, particularly when you’re a 16-year old girl. It requires talent, passion and empathy, too. Annick Gikundiro has all that in plenty.

You can find her declaiming her verses at ceremonies in and around the Rwandan capital Kigali.

"I go to funerals, marriages, anniversaries, baptisms and other ceremonies and I always try to adapt to the atmosphere, capture the emotion, and imagine what these people must be going through."

"Poetry can’t change the world, but it will have some little effects"

"I write about contemporary life, about what I’ve learned from the problems I encounter, about good and bad people. I try to reach out to youths who waste their time taking drugs and I confront their behaviour. Of course, poetry can’t change the world and perhaps it won’t change people’s mindsets, but it will have some little effects."

Going public
Annick discovered her passion for verse at a young age, drawing inspiration from French slam artist Grand Corps Malade and from modern English-language poets. It took a while before she dared to go public.

"I was a bit timid at first, but the positive response from the audience motivated me. It changed my life: I overcame my fear and I now draw inspiration from the crowds and can relate to them."

Born well after the 1994 genocide, she doesn’t dwell on that dark period in Rwandan history. Annick’s focus is very much on the present, capturing the mood and tribulations of a new generation.

Liberating experience
Broadcast to Africa as part of RNW’s Rencontres & Profils series on young African movers and shakers, Annick’s story reached a wide audience and generated numerous reactions on Facebook.

"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our mind." – Redemption Song, Bob Marley

RNW’s Rencontres & Profils provides a multimedia platform where young African voices can be heard. Its listener-led interactive format is making waves in young and bustling francophone Africa.

"For every poet, writing is a sort of liberation: it releases the emotions you have inside you." Annick’s words echo the lines of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, her favourite music.

"Sometimes, people tell me they’re amazed to hear this from a poet my age”, Annick says. “I want to encourage other young people to write poetry and go out and recite it in public. It’s a wonderful experience."

Jimirasire

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