Teakisi Woman: Axelle Umutesi
Axelle is a passionate young lady from Rwanda. She is a radio, TV and events host, voice over artist and a commercial model. She speaks her mind and appreciates honesty in a person more than anything else.
Just a short bio on Axelle, as we dig deeper to learn more about her background, current life and her hopes for tomorrow.
Teakisi: What’s a typical day in the life of Axelle Umutesi?
Axelle: I wake up at 6am. I sit for like 3 minutes, before doing anything, reflect on how God has been good to me and in silence, I appreciate another chance given to me by God. I rush to the bathroom and by eight in the morning, I am at work. I wrap up work around 8 pm and the earliest I get to my house is 10 in the evening. Once home, I take a shower, relax, read my bible, pray and sleep. I get time during the day to eat something (do not think eating is not part of my day).
Teakisi: How and when did your interest in radio and television media start?
Axelle: It was always my passion every since I was a kid. I used to watch a lot of TV! My dad always brought his radio to my room in the morning, asking me to listen and tell him later what they said. I always felt like I should be the person behind that microphone and/or TV screen.
My love of information and knowing what is happening around the world, led me to literature in high school which made me more confident and outspoken. I studied communications at the university level and as I was finishing my thesis, at someone’s recommendation and thanks to my social media presence, a radio station offered me a job. The microphone became my second love, after my dad.
Teakisi: Tell me about K250 and why it was important to launch it.
Axelle: We launched K250 as an English Lifestyle show. Our goal was to feature the various people of Rwanda and how they spent their free time, how they enjoyed their lives, as a mean to narrow the gap between the different people in Rwanda. Secondly, Rwanda was not thought of as a fun place to visit and we set our mission to change that narrative.
Teakisi: What is the response to the show?
The feedback has always been amazing. We started with a few issues, like the sound quality, but we’ve improved it and continue to make improvements to the show. As the positive feedback kept rolling in, we wanted to do more and give more and better content to our viewers. When you do a show in Rwanda and people from Kenya, Uganda, South Africa call and tell you they are always looking forward to the show, you can only thank God for that. We have also been getting invites from other countries to cover their events.
Teakisi: How would you describe Rwanda’s music industry today?
Axelle: Rwanda’s music industry is growing. It might not be as booming as in other countries in East Africa, but it is growing, changing and getting recognized on a continental level.
Our musicians need to get out of their comfort zones, do music as a business and not as a hobby. They should think of the different available platforms they can access in order to gain visibility, before thinking of how much money they are going to earn.
I am always perplexed, when a musician is invited to perform on a large platform and his or her first concern is not rehearsals, venues, equipment made available, exposure, but more of how much money they will earn. There needs to be a reality check and a need to look at the bigger picture: some of the greatest musicians have performed for free, for years, before getting name recognition and the ability to earn a decent living off of their talent. I am not advocating for free performances, but there is value in exposure and some of the new artists do not seem to understand that.
I would also emphasize the importance of social media to our musicians; with it they can truly advance their careers.
Teakisi: What are your prediction(s) of Rwanda’s music industry in 10 years?
Axelle: In 10 years, our music industry will have gained enough momentum to be recognized globally, but it takes work. Our musicians should work hard and be professional. Their talent and voices are needed to be heard on big platforms, such as the BET awards.
Teakisi: You are a strong believer in Jesus Christ. Is this something that has always been part of you growing up?
Axelle: Absolutely Yes. I grew up in a Christian family, but my parents did not force religion on us. They preferred to live the life that Jesus asks us to live. We faced challenges as a family, hard ones, but I always knew the solution is Jesus. I often challenged Him to come through for me and He always did even when I did not ask Him to do so. I grew up, gave my life to Him and He has been my backbone. I am grateful to my Dad for teaching us about Jesus and making Him the head of our family.
Teakisi: Are you a feminist, and what does feminism mean to you?
With so many interpretations of what feminism is, am not sure which one is the right one. I will say yes, I am a feminist who STRONGLY believes women can do absolutely everything that a man can do, we have no limits, we are strong and we can achieve anything we set our minds to. When God was creating a woman, He was probably saying, among all the creatures I am creating, I need a woman to define what uniqueness and strength mean.
Feminism to me means, empowering women to be who they are supposed to be, strong, unique, run the world and just be GREAT. I do not believe feminism is anti-male, like some people have made others think it is. We can empower women without trashing men and taking away their uniqueness too. How about we become women who also empower men to be the men they area created to be, instead of trashing them?
I do not think if you wanted to make someone a better version of who they are, you would always trash him/her. So let’s be women who empower women and stop trashing others, because it does not add us any value.
Teakisi: What do you think is the greatest hinderance to women in Rwanda?
Axelle: The government has empowered women, but we the Rwandan women need to get out of our comfort zones and be women. More campaigns and teachings are needed to get these women out of hiding and show how great they can be, not just saying it. We need to stop talking about the potential of women, but instead give them more tools to access that potential. More awareness is still needed. I cannot call that a hinderance as such, but it is something that is needed and it is not only the government to do that, any woman can take ownership of her greatness. Let’s not leave everything to the government, let’s own up some things.
Teakisi: Name five African women who inspire you.
Axelle: Winnie Mandela (South Africa), Miriam Makeba (South Africa), Ann Nzingha (Angola), Louise Mushikiwabo (Rwanda), Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro (Tanzania)
*Interview conducted by Salha Kaitesi