22 April 2016

Scholastique Mukasonga: Cœur tambour (2016)

Plunged in Rwandan myth and legend, Scholastique Mukasonga's Cœur tambour (literally 'Drum Heart') is in three parts: 'Kitami', 'Nyabingui', and the very brief 'Ruguina'.  The events in 'Kitami' take place before 'Nyabingui', and 'Ruguina' is a question mark about how the fateful event in the first section took place.

Kitami is a singer with a band of three rasta drummers, one from Guadeloupe, one from Jamaica, and one from the African continent. She is possessed by the spirit of Nyabinghi (or Nyabinghi), queen of the kingdom of women struggling against colonialism and masculine authority. One of the drums, Ruguina, is sacred and has been saved from destruction-by-museum by Kitami herself. Her voice is enchanting, usually inhabited by the spirit of  Nyabinghi. Kitami's unexpected death is mysterious.

The second section involves Prisca and her development in Rwanda. From a gifted student she becomes a manifestation of the spirit of Nyabinghi, meets the three musicians in the above paragraph, and 'inherits' the sacred drum.

How Katami dies is an open question, although perhaps she sacrificed herself under the magic drum.

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