September Theme: Of Miles and Stones
Back in the 1980s, there was a big hit song in Rwanda called ‘Ubalijoro’, a very beautiful and engaging song, one that stuck to your mind and you found yourself humming it throughout the day.
It wasn’t one of those songs made for nightclubs or dance parties. It was a soft tune, more the type of song you would imagine playing in a jazz bar or in a spoken word event.
Imagine you were sitting in your living room, listening to the author, one Karemera Rodrigue, reaching out to his brother Ubalijoro, who had gone for what was supposed to be a short trip abroad but who had never returned. When Ubalijoro left, his younger brother was still a young boy, now he was a grown-up man and his brother was still not back. Karemera would ask him how he was doing and inquire as to why he wasn’t sending any news to let the family know how if he was ok.
This beautiful musical letter of Karemera to his brother Ubalijoro is one that often comes to my mind, when I think about the stories of so many Africans who find themselves on the road, either by choice or if their circumstances force them to go and seek a better life elsewhere, whether the move is a serene and happy move or an abrupt uprooting one never truly recovers from. In my own personal story, I am the Ubalijoro of the song, the brother who left for a short trip abroad and found himself in a long Exile away from his loved ones and his beautiful homeland.
Years later, Karemera came up with another hit song, another letter of a kind sung on radios across the land. This time, he wasn't reading it to his brother; he was reading it to us, his public. The same engaging type of tune, but a story that had taken a tragic turn: Karemera had found out that his beloved brother had passed away in that foreign land, which is why no one had ever heard back from him again.
This tragic epilogue, instead of giving us some kind of ‘closure’, left us wanting to find out more; where had he died? In which circumstances? Had he tried to reach out to his family but couldn't?
And most importantly: had he found what he was looking for before he lost his life?
So many questions that were never answered.
This monthly theme, 'Of Miles and Stones', will be our own special tribute to the Ubalijoros and Karemeras of the world, as we look at stories of people who leave their home countries to look for something else and the men and women they meet along the way.
As always, we will try and find inspiration even in the most dire of circumstances and reflect on how these stories contribute to the collective Legacy of this place we call Home.
The UMURAGE Foundation
'Tragedy' by Moussa Tine of Senegal - Oil on Canevas.