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Guhumura: Nosy Interviews from Rwanda

A Nosy Interview consists of just two simple questions: “What do you smell like?” & “What do you like to smell?” But these two disarming questions yield rich, textured, weird, evocative, funny and beautiful answers. We become more human to each other when we think of the ways we smell. Smell is intimate, unsettling, powerful, and strange—we have to invent a language just to talk about it. (Consider perfume copy—sometimes it’s poetry, other times it’s word salad.) I am sitting on a trove of roughly 100 amazing Nosy Interviews collected in Rwanda over the course of a year spent living there. With the help of my partner, an anthropologist fluent in Kinyarwanda and Swahili, we gathered interviews from people throughout the country—people living in refugee camps, working in the country’s first ice cream shop, learning English, giving tours in a wildlife preserve, managing hotels, weaving baskets, drumming and dancing, exporting coffee, farming the land, and so much more. Rwanda continues to be reduced to a single story, but meeting people from Rwanda is the best way to expand that story. In lieu of traveling to Rwanda (recommended if you have the chance!), it is my hope that sharing these Nosy Interviews will help expand a person’s notion of this place and the people who live there.

In the past I have featured Nosy Interviews on my website (the currently semi- dormant nosygirl.net), but I hope to showcase these in a place where people will encounter them without seeking them out. A venue like Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab might be a natural choice, but I’d hope to put up an exhibit in a place/places where there’s more foot traffic (coffee shops, the library, Somerville winter farmer's market, etc.). I would welcome suggestions as to the best venue(s) for this!

Funded by Boston, MA (July 2016)