Passing On

Life, Poetry, and Death

Photo by Spoken Word Rwanda

I used two poems by Sudi Nshimiyimana in the opening of a recent article, my attempt to illustrate how poetry has shaped creative expression in modern Rwanda. I could have chosen another way, used some of the many other poems written by young Rwandans I have worked with in the past several years, but Sudi’s writing has always been uniquely intriguing. So I went with it. His poetry is deep and challenging yet easy. Majority of his prose require more than the average effort you spend contemplating on a piece of writing. His work is one of a fervent writer, a thinker.

Sudi passed on Monday last week at the age of twenty-five, after several years of battling complications of heart disease. I first met him at Indatwa n’Inkesha School (formerly Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare), where we both got part of our secondary education, then at the University of Rwanda, where he graduated in clinical psychology. He was a talented poet and a passionate writer, a very young, bright, and humble human being. An inspiration to many of us who knew him.

The great Japanese writer Kenzaburō Ōe once wrote, in Hiroshima Notes, that “the dead can survive as part of the lives of those that still live.” For his love of words, poetry, philosophy, and his peace of mind, the work of his friends and family, his fellow young Rwandan writers, and the poets and people who inspired him, his spirit lives on especially through those who bear his passion, enthusiasm, and strength.

Sudi remains one of the most serene young people I have ever met. His passing reminds me of the significance of living with purpose. May he rest in peace.

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