Social media is awash with commentary over a new photo in which a controversial singer appears to have made up with a government official charged with safeguarding Rwandan cultural values.
On Sunday, singer Oda Paccy posted a picture on Instagram of her with Edouard Bamporiki. It had been taken at a wedding of another local celebrity Mike Karangwa.
Late last year, Oda Paccy pushed her musical career to a new level when she released a single titled ‘IBYATSI’. On a promotional poster for the song, the letters were deliberately separated to appear as ‘IBYA-TSI’.
Depending on how you choose to read the word or words, ‘IBYATSI’ in Kinyarwanda means ‘GRASS’. But then, ‘IBYA’ refers to male testacle, and the plural of it for testacles.
The poster was also displayed a seemingly naked body of a person.
When the song hit the airwaves, it became an instant social media trend – making Oda Paccy the talk in Rwanda and the diaspora – from bars, offices, to living rooms and schools.
Within days, Bamporikithe head of the National Itorero Commission, a government body that promotes social cohesion and Rwandan cultural practices, released a statement in which the commission had stripped Paccy of her “Ubutore”.
The commission conducts regular mass mobilization trainings for different categories of Rwandans society; high school leavers preparing to go to university, teachers, local officials and many others.
When a particular group completes the training, which covers all aspects of Rwanda from pre-colonial to date, it is given an identity name. All individuals who have taken part in the training are called “INTORE” – adapted from the ancient tradition meaning warrior or dancer.
In essence, Bamporiki’s announcement had withdrawn Paccy’s membership of the INTORE.
Social media was in overdrive over the statement. Many were wondering whether UBUTORE is a government stamp for what it considers good behavior, or whether every Rwandan is automatically INTORE. But that it was to be upon the particular individual and society to consider how they are viewed.
Bamporiki was all over local media explaining his statement, which kept the controversy alive. Some days later, he changed tune – saying the statement was not stripping Paccy of UBUTORE. Instead, that it was affirming that because of her behavior, she did not merit to be called INTORE.
For her part, Paccy said her song was denouncing marijuana and cannabis consumption among youth which has become a huge national issue. When you listen to the lyrics of the song, its wording is about the banned drugs and their impact on society.
It is the combination of the words and the way they were designed that brought that much attention to the song.
By taking a picture together this past weekend, it brought back the song’s controversy to social media and mainstream media.
Coincidentally, Bamporiki had GRASS in his hand – which he had used during the cultural dance usually done at weddings to deliver cows as dowry to bride’s family.
Speaking to The Chronicles, Oda Paccy said Bamporiki is a leader she respects.
“There is no reason why I cannot take a picture with him. There is no problem between us; I don’t know why the picture has become a problem,” she said.
Bamporiki has not commented.