The famous play by Shakespeare, could well define my feeling as I left Miss Rwanda contest last night. Like me, Rwandans in general have been grappling with the concept of Miss Rwanda without deciding what to make of it.

Last year, when Airtel, the main sponsor of the event attempted to sell a promotional billboard showing two Miss Rwandas; the reigning and her predecessor, pecking King James, the popular Rwandan singer, it was taken down, by those who felt it was inconsistent with Rwandan culture and the dignity of women

Two years ago, as miss Rwanda went to compete at global level, she decided to cover her bikini with a scarf to the surprise of her fellow contestants. I asked myself if she was in the right place; because indeed the platform was for people showing more of their bodies; had she gone to change them? Was it out of activism? Or was she caught off-guards and decided to save, what was left of her (version) of dignity.

Having gone with my usual skepticism about an event, which I considered to be nothing more than a men’s game of objectifying women, I was pleasantly surprised.

Every girl came on stage with a traditional instrument, of which when they were asked, showed impressive knowledge; they had well researched and eloquently described their instrument, its use, the story behind it and the moral of the story!

I learned a lot, listening to them, I was impressed. I felt that we had finally found a good angle from which to present a Rwandan ‘Nyampiga’; an ambassador of our culture to younger girls.

You see, a message to the youth is better received, when channeled through an attractive package, i.e. the miss Rwanda.

Although ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ – another Shakespeare’s wisdom, for the first time I agreed with the judges, or should I say, they could have chosen any of the fifteen girls, and I would still agree with them; All the girls were stunning!

Alas we are getting close; The event started well, and the theme too was well put; a theme song led by Aunt Maria Yohani; the Rwandan motherly figure per excellence, a younger married woman and a young girl rapper, also woman, I thought that was charming…

The throne was branded RBBC: Rwandan Beauty, Brains and Culture; perfect!

Accordingly, only 20% of marks were given on physical looks. The rest was evenly distributed on brains, culture and popularity.

Ultimately however, it was still the girl that most thought was more beautiful – hence popular, that took the crown; What do you do, it’s a beauty pageant…

But something remarkable happened. I had seen Nigerians in attendance, and was hopeful for the contact of two cultures to yield learning and concord.

And indeed, when a graphically dressed Nigerian singer went on stage, the Rwanda drummers rushed to cover her nudity, with a Rwandan Mushanana; a good move, as she was about to undo the image of Nyampinga being presented by the beautiful and culturally empowered young misses…

But what the Nigerian young woman showed was a reality. While it is true that our ideal young woman displays restrain and grace, reality is that our society, like any other, has deviants, whom we manage as we can, but whom are not to be ignored.

I also wondered if our morals may not be writing checks that our society can’t cash; and we have been good at that. In my three last posts I talked of ‘Tech women’; ‘Incubating teenagers and a ‘mental Paradigm shift’. That is something that we can confidently promote.

That said, All imaginary societies, ideal ones; like in ‘Hunger games’, or the ‘Perfect City of Athens’ imagined by Plato, all crumbled and failed;

With ‘Girl hub’, we are on to something; with miss Rwanda however, we still have to confront our contradictions…

Today I learn that the Minister of Sports and Culture – the patron of Miss Rwanda has been relieved of his duties. How has he sinned this time? Is it just a coincidence? Your guess is as good as mine..

Posted 3rd April