Rwanda Culture

Rwanda commonly known as the “land of a thousand hills” is a mountainous country located in the far western edge of the Rift Valley, bordering Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania. The land of a thousand hills is known for the best destination for mountain gorilla safaris in Africa and the world at large. Although this time round our main emphasis is on culture.

The culture in Rwanda does not only include the population of Rwanda but also other people in the neighboring states who speak the Kinyarwanda language particularly Congo and Uganda who went as refugees but still maintain a strong identification with the Rwandan national language, a distinct cultural identity within a wider national culture. The most important ethnic divisions within the Rwanda culture are between the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa based on the perceptions of historical group origin rather than cultural differences. The three groups speak the same language, practice the same religion and live interspersed throughout the territory. Therefore, they are widely considered to share common culture, despite deep political divisions. Historically Rwanda’s three ethnic groups have been identified with distinct aspect of the economy, the Tutsi with cattle, Hutu with land and the Twa with the forest, and each group having a distinct role in public rituals and each having different dressing code.

The Rwandan food is quite simple with beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sorghum being the most common with dairy products also being widely consumed particularly a traditional drink of curdled milk and meat primarily beef, goat and chicken. Sorghum and banana brews (beer) are as well commonly taken among the communities. The Rwandans traditionally don’t eat food in public settings, save for only ceremonial purposes, but otherwise eat only in homes. However in recent years, the taboo of eating in public has been administered significantly and restaurants have appeared in most urban areas with most of the Rwandans still not eating the totemic animals associated with their clan. During important occasions in Rwanda, ceremonial consumption of alcohol and food takes place at the function usually a piece of meat and something else to eat like roasted potato. In rural settings, a pot of sorghum beer is placed in the center of the room with numerous reed straws and participants come forward to partake and also the calabashes of banana beer are passed through the crowd.

Music and dance also plays an important role in the tradition of Rwanda with people having a variety of music and dance which range from acts that demonstrate epics commemorating excellence and bravery, humorous lyrics and the awful songs of genocide. The traditional hymns are often accompanied by a solitary Lulunga, a sharp- like instrument with eight strings and more celebratory dances are backed by drum orchestra which typically comprise of seven to nine members who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms. The finest exponent of Rwanda’s varied, and dynamic traditional musical dance style is the Kinyarwanda dance. A more modern form of Rwandan music is the upbeat and harmonious devotional singing that can be heard in churches, weddings, and other public functions around the country.

In Rwanda’s rural areas, a wide range of traditional handicrafts is also produced, ranging from ceramics and basketry to traditional woodcarvings and contemporary paintings with a good selection of crafted artifacts being seen in the main market or street stalls in Kigali.

Rwanda’s culture is one of the few untouched and authentic African cultures which you should not miss on your tour to East Africa, or Rwanda; visit the Iby’iwachu cultural village just next to Volcanoes national park, the mountain gorilla home, there are numerous cultural museums, especially the ethnographic museum in Nyanza, Butare national museum and the famous genocide memorial museum in Kigali; these all portray the true Rwandan cultures as exhibited.