How I lived through the Rwandan genocide – by top model Sonia Gisa
-Jul 2, Jenny Paul , Health -
Sonia Gisa is a Rwandan model and actress who was born in Karongi. She’s starred in the films Rattrapage and Very Valentine, been crowned Miss Africa and won Miss Supranational in 2015. But, behind the glitz and glamour of the worlds of fashion and film, lies a very human story of survival and triumph over unthinkable trauma and tragedy. Sonia has just released her autobiography – Slaughter Baby – which retraces her childhood in Rwanda, where she lived through the 100 day Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the death of her father. We wondered if, despite the glitzy outward appearance of Sonia’s life now, she’s coped with the trauma of her past and how she still copes today, and wanted to know about the wellness tools she uses to get through life, especially following the stress of the global lockdown.
Writing about your life story and all you went through in Rwanda – including the death of your father – must have been deeply upsetting, why did you feel that the time was right to tell your story?
Writing about my story wasn’t easy, I saw it first as self therapy as while writing I felt like a weight was gone from my shoulders also for others, I know they are so many people who are challenged about healing themselves from various trauma, I wanted to tell them, if I can do it you can do it, nothing will come easy if you want to heal from suffering; you have to face it and not run away from it.
Has it been hard re-living so much of the trauma and personal torment you went through?
To be honest, it was. I cried a lot while writing my autobiography as it brought up loads of memories, however it’s part of who I am, that’s the base that built the person I am now.
How do you cope? Do you still suffer from nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD?
Well, not as much as they used to be. I still have nightmares but very rarely and I have learned through lucid dreams how to go away from them when I am dreaming. I am aware when something is coming from my terrifying memories.
Concerning trauma crisis I remember having 3 during those past 6 years, it’s such a progress.
Do you rely on wellness tools such as therapy/ meditation and yoga/ exercise?
I didn’t try therapy but I use meditation a lot almost every day. It helps me to come back to the here and now and remember that every second of my a life is gift and I am blessed. I practice yoga as well less regularly than meditation. When it comes to exercise, I enjoy running or long walks in nature, as I feel is part of me I’ve grown up in mountains taking care of cows and chasing birds, nothing is more beautiful than Mother Nature.
Were the reactions to your book from people who have read your story as you expected?
The reactions have been very interesting so far, especially from the people I know. I am very surprised that they never heard me complaining about my past. I don’t want to wear my old pain as a trophy for people to pity me I want to use it to inspire.
If there’s one thing you would like people reading your book to learn, or take away from it, what would it be?
The only think I would like them to learn is that everything is possible, no matter where you come from, your age, your skin colour, sex, religion, sexual orientation – just start where you are, do your best and be nice to yourself, you can love others only when you are able to love yourself, it is the same as forgiveness, empathy and compassion.
What is the hardest challenge that you have had to overcome in your life?
Fighting my shyness have been really challenging, I feel like something as simple as to express yourself when needed or to raise your hand in meetings can be really challenging for some people and I have been there.
How did you get through the recent global lockdown and the threat of Covid-19?
Oh wow, time was not passing fast but it have been a time for self-centring and coming back to the essential basics.
What were your non-negotiable wellness must haves to get through the past few months?
Reading definitely, I think I would have been very bored without books.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
They are many, but let’s say being able to write about my story is the thing I am most proud of for the moment.
If you could go back, what advice would you give your younger self?
I will tell her to not worry, that my guiding star was looking upon her.
Your life has had so many low and high points, what have been the biggest triumphs so far?
I am very proud of my accomplishments as a model and seeing my pictures on magazine covers is a blast.
How do you unwind and relax?
Sitting in nature listening to bird songs and breathing fresh air, I am easy.
What’s your wellness must have?
Best travel tip?
Plan as little as possible. And discover.
As well as your own book, which books do you recommend people to read this summer?
Untethered soul : the journey beyond yourself by Micheal A. Singer.
Desert island disc, book and luxury item?
Scorpions, The picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and a sun hat.
And finally, your favourite quote?
“Do not take life too seriously. you will never get out of it alive.” Elbert Hubbart.