Folk Tales

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Yifuje ubwiza...

Looking for Beauty

Illustrated by Dominique Nkurunziza. Kigali, Rwanda: Editions Bakame, 2000. 32 p. All ages.

The book contains modern adaptions of two traditional folktales: "Yifuje ubwiza" and "Nguge na Bihehe." In "Yifuje ubwiza," Rusake (Rooster) and Gikeri (Frog) are good friends. Gikeri does not like his wrinkled and green skin, so he asks Rooster what he does to look so smooth and shiny. Rusake starts to tell how every morning his wife boils oil in a big pot, but before he can finish the sentence, Gikeri interrupts him and says that he has understood everything. He goes home and orders his wife to put him in boiling oil. His wife refuses at first, but reluctantly complies when her husband threatens her with divorce. Frog burns to death, and the entire village blames Rooster; however, he is forgiven when he explains how Frog refused to listen to him and made assumptions about how Rusake used boiling oil. Certainly, he did not immerse himself in it!

In "Nguge na Bihehe," Nguge (Monkey) and Bihehe (Hyena) make a pact to remain friends always. One day, while helping Nguge to clear his land, Bihehe notices that his friend has a good axe, so he borrows it with the intention of not returning it. When many days pass, Nguge goes to find out what has happened. Bihehe tells Nguge that he had loaned the axe to his nephew, who was later robbed of everything, including the axe. On his way home, Nguge meets the nephew, who denies having been robbed. Nguge and his wife decide to teach Bihehe a lesson. Knowing of Bihehe’s greed, they mix a magic potion in some food and place it where Bihehe will find it. Sure enough, Bihehe eats the food. After sometime, he hears a voice from within his stomach, telling him that if he does not return Nguge’s axe he will burst. When Bihehe begins to bloat, he hastens to return the axe and asks for forgiveness. Nguge forgives Bihehe, but reminds him that one does not steal from or lie to a friend.

Talking animals with human strengths and weaknesses continue to be an excellent vehicle for teaching positive values to children and adults alike. The illustrations that accompany these tragi-comic stories will appeal to children. Dominique Nkurunziza, who graduated in graphic arts from the renowned Nyundo School of Art, won the 2001 Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB) Award for his cover art for Nkumbuye iwacu (I Miss Home).

Folk Tales


Editions Bakame