Is Ice Cream in Rwanda a Sign of Peace?

Today, I continue my 100 day series remembering the twentieth anniversary of Rwandan genocide. Please join me in prayer for those lives lost and impacted in this tragedy. #NeverAgain. LMH

A friend pointed me to this interesting article by Gregory Warner for NPR. In “How Rwanda’s Only Ice Cream Shop Challenges Cultural Taboos“, Warner looks at the struggle of a female entrepreneur to start an ice cream shop in Rwanda. It seems the trouble is not so much related to gender issues as it is the Rwandan taboo that frowns upon eating in the street.

So while Madeline Uwimana will proudly bang on a sacred cowhide drum despite the prohibitions of tribal elders, she wouldn’t dare eat a snack on the road if she’s hungry.

“It’s shameful!” she says. “Everybody will laugh at you.”

It’s hard to unpack this particular taboo. But Rwandan culture discourages the public display of personal needs. Not just hunger but also grief. Tears are acceptable only in specific mourning periods.

Some say that Rwandans’ capacity to put a public mask on sadness is what’s held the country together, allowed killers and survivors to remain neighbors for the past 20 years.

Louise Ingabire is the manager of the ice cream shop. “When ice cream comes,” she says, “we would like to change the culture.”

Is it a stretch to equate the freedom to eat ice cream wherever you want to a country’s healing? I can see both sides of the arguments being discussed in the NPR combox. I do think we have to err on the side of caution when it comes to thinking that our ways are the best ways, but it’s great to see entrepreneurism taking wing as well. And as for ice cream, I’m all in. I hope to visit this place at some point in the future…

Read the full article here.

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  • This disturbs me from a cultural imperialism standpoint. If the one thing Rwandans agree on is not showing personal needs in public, what will happen if we destroy that taboo?

  • Mike

    Very good to see small businesses starting up. Ice Cream in Rwanda, what a strange combination and what a hopeful one too.