My happy place: Francois Bymana, actor and musician

By Bronwyn Sell

Francois Bymana, actor
Francois Bymana, actor

My happy place is Grey Lynn Park. Where I grew up in Rwanda, we didn't have parks like that. Having such a place to meet means we have peace here, we have order, we have freedom.

Nothing amazes me more than seeing a couple of friends walking down the park and holding hands, or a family having a picnic, or children running around the playground while their parents have coffee. All those things to me signify one thing: there is peace here. Because with no peace you really can't enjoy all that.

That's what many nations lack - those little moments of family time when you know there is no machete behind you, there is no gun sounding a few metres away. You can sit and relax and talk about life and laugh.

I left Rwanda when I was 20. That was in 1994, when the war got worse and everything went mad. The killings that started - they didn't spare anyone. So many young people were forced to go on patrols and kill. It was not like they were there for blood lust, some of them did it because they had to protect their families.

I have mixed parentage - my father was Hutu, my mother was Tutsi - and on both sides I lost a big number of people. Two of my brothers were killed because of their mixed blood. I was lucky, I wasn't in the neighbourhood that night. I was evacuated to Zaire by the Red Cross. When I was nearly 25 I came to New Zealand.

I've lived in New Zealand for the last 14 years and 10 of those I've spent around the Grey Lynn and Ponsonby area. Grey Lynn Park became close to me and my older son, Tuyishime. That's where we spent most of our time, me coaching him football. I used to play goalkeeper in my time, and I really taught him how to shoot the ball and score goals. Even when he was only 6 or 7, sometimes he would shoot the ball and I would be afraid to catch it.

And, of course, there is always the colourful Grey Lynn Festival in November each year, which I try to never miss. I first asked out my partner, Cassandra Barnett, at the festival, two years ago. I was helping a friend of mine do a bit of drumming and she showed up. I had met her a month earlier and if it hadn't been for the festival I probably wouldn't have bumped into her again.

Now we have a beautiful boy, Izuba, who is 1 year and 1 month old. So Grey Lynn Park is very significant in my life. I just love it.

- Herald on Sunday

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