Here at Travel Africa magazine, we are fascinated by Rwanda. Its story reflects so many of the challenges facing African nations today, yet these are amplified by its small size and extreme pressures.
Every young democracy has to go through a big learning curve. Governments, thrust into an unstable environment with considerable responsibilities, need to learn to respect the responsibilities of office. Citizens need to find their voice, in a safe environment. Economic development needs to be encouraged, while protecting the natural resources that often sustain it and nurturing the people that drive it.
While Western countries may have had hundreds of years to develop their societies, most African nations are at the start of their independent journeys, but expectations are high.
The shadows from which the modern Rwanda has emerged are unimaginably dark and harrowing, yet the maturity with which its people have pulled together to build a new life is a remarkable testimony to the power of goodwill. It sits at the heart of a fractious region, yet its people are peaceful and positive.
The firm leadership of the Kagame government is, in many ways, remarkably visionary, and has driven economic development at an impressive pace; such that there is increasing pressure on land and the country’s natural resources. At just 26,338 sq km, it is one of Africa’s smallest countries, with one of the highest population densities in the world. With a growing economy, strong agricultural sector and a developing tourism industry, the challenges to find a balance here are quite profound. So far, so good.
We have been particularly interested in how the country has approached expanding its tourism base from a largely gorilla-based appeal. It has encouraged investment and partnerships in all national parks, which it safeguards and encourages expansion of. Its air and road infrastructure is efficient and well serviced.
And so, when we received a copy of the new coffee table book, This is Rwanda, we enthusiastically poured over its 288 large format pages. This work is impressive for two reasons:
First, the quality of the production is exceptional. Importantly, we think, it has been produced by two (clearly very talented and creative) Rwandans, Gaël Rubonela vande Weghe and Philippe Nyirimihigo. Sure, they have an eye on design, but they have also not spared the pennies in the pursuit of quality of paper and print.
Second, the photographic portrayal of Rwanda is fresh. By focusing entirely on aerial photography (with support of Akagera Aviation), these images allow us to take in a wider perspective than we are used to.
As Gael Faye says in the forward: “Gaël and Philippe… continue to immortalise the face of a country in constant evolution as cities expand at an unprecedented pace and infrastructure becomes more and more modern. While we remain conscious of the colossal environmental problem facing our century… the pages in this book are a journey of discovery for the eye, but they are also an invitation to preserve the delicate harmony between people and nature.”
For any Africa lover, this book is, we believe, a significant addition to your bookshelf.
We hope to stock copies in the near future, but for now you can order a copy from www.thisisrwanda.com.
We thank Gaël and Philippe for sharing this selection of images from the book with Travel Africa magazine readers. Click on an image to view full frame, and flick through…