Prior to European colonisation under Germany then Belgium, the Kingdom of Rwanda was consolidated under the authority of Tutsi ruler Rwabugiri. Full independence in 1961 followed the end of the monarchy which lasted until 1959. Ethnic tensions have led to continual violence between the Hutu and Tutsi groups in Rwanda, which has also spilled into neighbouring countries of the Great Lakes region. In 1994, the most brutal episode of ethnic killing occurred in which some 800,000 Tutsis died between April and July. Rwanda's current president is Paul Kagame, who led the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPF) that ousted the Hutu government in 1994.
The horrifying experience of ethnic warfare is central to much of contemporary Rwandan literature. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen and Murambi, The Book of Bones recounts the horrifying massacre that enveloped Rwanda from the perspective of a history teacher whose family was killed.
Journalist Gil Courtemanche wrote Sunday at the Pool in Kigali to commemorate those who died and survived the violence. Similarly, Philip Gourevitch spent nine months in Rwanda to answer the question of how such an event could occur. We With To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families is his harrowing account. Roméo Dallaire, who led the UN peace-keeping mission in Rwanda at the time of the genocide takes a painful look back at what went wrong and the failings of the international community in Shake Hands with the Devil, which was also adapted into film. Gaile Parkin's Baking Cakes In Kigali is a book that dwells on the quotidian life of a Tanzanian cake baker who moves to Rwanda in the aftermath of the killing. Whilst not forgetting the tragedy, Parkin's novel also shows that the living must continue to live.
In film, Hotel Rwanda tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina who saved the lives of numerous Tutsi refugees. Sometimes in April is a TV drama that depicts the lives of those who survived, and their struggle to come to terms with the violence. Rwanda's emergent film industry is called Hillywood, which alludes to Rwanda's hilly natural landscape. Eric Kabera is a leading member of Rwandan film who founded the Kwetu Film Institute and the Rwanda Cinema Center. His films include 100 Days, Keepers of Memory, and Iseta: Behind the Roadblock.
Contemporary Rwandan films have gained critical acclaim. Grey Matter by Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza, which was released in early 2012, tells of the tremendous obstacles confronting a struggling filmmaker. Kinyarwanda by African-American director Alrick Brown links together six intimate stories of lives irrevocably changed by the Rwandan genocide. Maibobo by Yves Montand Niyongabo follows the journey of a country boy who joins the street kids of Rwanda, many of whom, fifteen years ago, lost their families during the 1994 genocide.