How Much are You Worth?

When Nyamuragi, a young mute, tries to ask a young woman in the province of Burundi for directions to a suitable place to relieve himself, his motions are mistaken as reflections of rape. To the young woman’s population, his fleeing confirms his guilt, setting off a chain reaction of chasing him, mob justice, and Nyamuragi’s attempts at clarification.

The Burundian novelist Roland Rugero’s second novel Baho!, the first Burundian novel to be translated into English.

In the novel Baho! We see tradition biblical images as wells as tradition female and male roles. When the mute Nyamuragi asks the young woman for directions to relieve himself but mistakenly is taken for raping her. Her community and father outcries for her, Kigeme, “Before he (kigeme’s father) leaves, four of his male neighbors visit to express their solidarity in this misfortune affecting his family” page 25. The solidarity and misfortune that Kigeme’s father faces is the loss of a “pure” daughter. In wedding traditions or institutions of marriage males was supposed to give the father of the bride a dowry. A dowry is a transfer of property, gifts or money at the marriage of a daughter.

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While although many should be upset with the almost rape of Kigeme, her father is more worried about the money he will lose since his daughter is not seen a pure anymore. Another example is on page 26,

“the owner of a necklace handles it contemptuously. The owner of a jewel does not realize its true value. It’s when we lose it, or run the risk of losing it, that we realize how rich we were… A man’s word is at stake! Action must be taken!” page 26.

Roland further goes into the money associated with the virginity of Kigeme, while comparing her lady parts as a jewel and the value one will receive once sold. When Kigeme loses it, when she is almost raped, and the action that must be taken is going after the mute boy.



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