Lisa Ndejuru

“I think that when you squash the stories and the value of everything that comes before, it’s a way of eroding a people. And so I think that that is what I’m wanting to value when I want to wake these stories.”

Lisa Ndejuru is a storyteller and scholar who asks if engaging creatively with oral tradition in Rwanda can be of inspiration to us today. Her work crosses generations to mix ancient stories, contemporary culture, and future cultural worldviews in an effort to shape a common future.

Do We Own Stories, or Do Stories Own Us?

It took Lisa 10 years (and a bit of encouragement) to finally access the microfilm of what is colonially-known as the Vansina Collection at the American Library of Congress. Her work in support of the project Waking our Stories is bringing these pre-colonial stories back to the Rwandan diaspora and to renewed relevance today.  



Born in Rwanda, Lisa (she/her) is a daughter of the Abega clan. In the 1970s, her family fled to Germany and then migrated to Turtle Island a decade later. Lisa has served the Rwandan diaspora for over 20 years and dreams of being invited to work on “extending the rafters.” Her work explores silences and tensions, stories of trauma and displacement, and arts-based approaches to difficult conversations. Through storytelling, play, and improvised theatre in post-trauma settings, Lisa fosters individual and collective sensemaking and empowerment in the aftermath of large-scale political violence.


Waking our Stories is a research-creation project that explores wellness, precolonial oral tradition, storytelling, knowledge creation and transmission, Afrotopias and other future identities, and cultural worldviews. Working with multidisciplinary artist Ramona Benveniste and performer Ulla Neuerburg in Montreal, Lisa is revisiting and reviving a corpus of 800 precolonial Ibitekerezo Rwandan stories.