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How Rwanda’s Only Ice Cream Shop Challenges Cultural Taboos

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The shop is a joint project of a Rwandan artist and an ice cream proprietor from Brooklyn named Alexis Miesen, whose first task was to teach her employees how to eat the stuff to avoid an aching jaw. “No teeth!” she’d say. “Just your tongue!”

The women who staff this shop are used to exploring the unfamiliar.

In a country where traditional drummers are exclusively male, the women started a female drumming troupe. The troupe had extra symbolism after the genocide of 1994.

Some of the drummers were the wives of killers now in prison. Other women were widows and survivors. They toured the country, promoting reconciliation and challenging the traditional role of women in Rwandan society.

The ice cream shop was supposed to be a way to give some of the women more stable incomes. But selling ice cream turned out to face an even more tenacious taboo: In Rwanda, its highly unseemly to eat anything in the street.

Published on NPR
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