Flying Roots and Bignhi are an artist-collaborative duo of audiovisual-performative artists from Kigali, Rwanda. Together, they specialize in spoken word, video installation, and sound. Both Bignhi (also known as Cheryl Isheja) and FlyingRoots (also known as Natacha Muziramakenga) are participants in the Indigenous International: Green Architecture Project in Rwanda.
Binghi: The term Fragma is the literal representation of our collaborative relationship.
Flying Roots: Fragma is a way of having poetry, theater, music, and video cohabit in digital form. It is a five-series experimentation of digital performance theater that was heavily induced by the COVID-19 situation. This year, I had a very important play that was supposed to go on tour. The play was intended to travel to different parts of East Africa, Cameroon, and even Haiti. However, because of COVID, everything was canceled. I thought of an idea that would still allow me to perform theater but digitally, and thus Fragma was born. By producing a video, we can introduce a dream, an element that is not part of a live performance. We can play with being in two different places at the same time. What I love about theater is that you create everything with the characters on stage. As a performer, it eludes to the feeling of ultimate freedom. However, I realized that we could take this notion of freedom even further with the infusion of digital-based media. With the first experiment (Fragma 1), we did not have much money for professional production, but because we have worked in the entertainment industry in Rwanda, our friends understood our intention. We already have a plan for Fragma 2, 3, 4, and 5. We know that we have to take this experiment further. We represent our feminist point of view.
F: Fragma a combination of the two words: fragments and magma. It’s really not that genius, but it sounded good because it represents something that is scattered but in an explosive way.
F: There are many variations of feminism according to the context, the culture, and what one prioritizes in the fight for equality. In a general sense, feminism is about remembering and acting upon the fact that women are human beings and should be treated as such. It seems so basic, and it seems like common sense, but patriarchy is not at ease with these sentiments. There are a lot of double standards, and women have to constantly explain why it’s not ok for people to treat you as lesser than.
B: Can you imagine how ridiculous it feels to have to explain that Femicide is not ok?
F: It’s very similar to the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.A. Why should anyone have to justify why their life matters? Why should I have to justify the ethics of equal pay? Do you know how nonsensical it feels to have to plead for basic human rights? It’s as if policies, laws, traditions, and cultures forgot about women in the process. So, here we are, having to tell people that we are human beings and having to provide examples that justify our humanity. When I am walking down the street by myself, I should feel comfortable. Planet Earth is my home.
F: Feminism is perceived with a lot of animosity and misunderstanding. In Rwanda, people will say that feminism is only for white women. But, when you learn about all of the Queens who fought for this country like, Nyabinghi and Muhumusa, it’s easy to understand that there were many women apart of the history of Rwanda who paved the ways for girls like us.
B: These women mattered to the history of East Africa and Rastafarianism, especially Nyabinghi.
F: Because I have this knowledge, it is so strange to hear people tell you that feminism is only white women whining. The Rwandese have a historical society that involved women in both nurturing and political roles. However, Rwandese women have lost this political role through colonialism. People are acting as if women should not stand up and fight. It is strange because when you look at men, every day they are fighting for something. Every day men are fighting to succeed or to not be discriminated against. Sometimes they are even fighting physically when someone is rude to them. There are so many reasons for men to fight on a daily basis. But it is so hard for these same men to understand why a woman would want to fight back when she feels like she is being mistreated. Feminism is all about standing up for yourself, so I am not sure why this concept is so hard for some men to grasp.
B: It’s frustrating because people often equate being a feminist to simply being a bitter woman.
F: I wish I were not one. I wish I will not have to be one anymore because if everyone were a feminist, life would be so much easier. If this were the case, we wouldn’t even have to talk about gender equality.
B: We wouldn’t have to tell our sons and our nephews to be careful about how they treat women.
F: Being a feminist is about not having to be a feminist anymore at some point because we will eradicate patriarchy, we will raise kids to respect each other, and we will eradicate gender roles and the pressures they incur, this way, every human being will have the opportunity to excel and be vulnerable.
F: In my Utopia, the goal of feminism starts with the conception of a child and raising this kid to be humane and compassionate. We would raise children without any expectation to perform gender.
B: In my Utopia, feminism would not need to exist.
F: We kill patriarchy, and we live!