Culture and Heritage
A once in a lifetime experience
Culture & Heritage in Rwanda
Like in many African countries the Rwandan culture is not limited to its boarders, through the passage of time and due to various conflicts certain Rwandese groups have found themselves in Congo and Uganda, who speak the Kinyarwanda language and practice the same cultural beliefs as the people who live in Rwanda. The well-publicised divisions between the predominant ethnic groups within Rwanda (Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa) are actually based on perceptions of each group's origins and not major differences in cultural and traditional beliefs. Generally speaking the Kinyarwanda-speaking Tutsi, known as the Banyamulenge, live in the high plains and mountains above Lake Tanganyika in South Kivu. The Bufumbira region of southwest Uganda is also Kinyarwanda speaking.
Iby'iwacu Cultural Village
The Iby’iwacu Cultural Village, also known as the Gorilla Guardians Cultural Village is a replica village of what traditional life was like back in the day for many Rwandans. Visitors are given an opportunity to spectate and participate in may activities such as hunting skills, weaving and carpentry as well as learn a little bit about traditional architecture, fashion, and food. The word “Iby’iwacu” is a Kinyarwada word that means “Treasures of our home and heritage”. One of the highlights of visiting the Cultural Village is watching the Intore dance performances with one such performance being the Ballet of Rwanda which was historically only performed for the Royal Court. The dance is performed by men dressed in grass wigs and carrying spears, who wear little tinkling bells on each foot, providing a ringing rhythm as the background music. The ‘Dance of Heroes’ is about returning warriors, celebrating victory in battle. The group was formed when local villagers also convinced a group of ex-poachers to set up a traditional dance troupe that would perform for visitors. Activities to participate in when at the Cultural Village are:
Visit the Kings Palace
Visit the Batwa Community
Local brew preparation
Meeting traditional healers
Kwita Izina means ‘to give a name’ in Kinyarwanda. This ceremony that has been adapted for Mountain Gorillas is inspired by the Rwandan tradition of holding a naming ceremony for babies after their birth. Rwanda hosts a week-long event, annually, every September to raise awareness and funds for the ongoing protection of the country’s mountain gorillas as well as the expansion of their habitat.
The event includes a conference, workshops all centred around responsible tourism and conservation initiatives in Rwanda with the highlight of course being the naming ceremony for the gorillas born in Volcanoes National Park. The actual ceremony takes place in the huge, silverback-shaped bamboo stage where each gorilla is carefully assigned a chosen name according to the baby's behaviour and unique character traits, and which Rwandans believe will encourage good fortune and play a prominent role in shaping the infants’ futures. The event regularly attracts thousands of visitors with conservationists, rangers’ communities; international celebrities, dignitaries and the country’s President in attendance. Since Kwita Izina began, over 280 baby gorillas have been given a name
Kigali Genocide Memorial
In 2001, the Aegis Trust in collaboration with Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), raised the $2 million required to build the Kigali Genocide Memorial. On 7 April 2004 to mark the tenth commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the centre was officially opened
The Kigali Genocide Memorial has three permanent exhibitions:
1 - The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
2 – Wasted lives
3 – Children’s room
Within the memorial grounds, there is also an Amphitheatre, Burial Place and Gardens, Café and Gift Shop as well as a Library.
The Memorial has the remains of over 250,000 people are interred there. It also serves as a museum where both local and international visitors can learn about the history, implementation and consequences of the genocide.
While the largest memorial is in Kigali, the genocide touched all corners of Rwanda, and as such there are many emotionally charged memorials located throughout the country. Some are as simple as a quiet garden space for contemplation, while others are larger and hold relics, remains, and exhibits on the genocide itself