Rwandan culture can be experienced in a lot of different things for example the food, their cultural dance which is the most anticipated, their way of dressing, everyday lifestyle and their traditional marriages. When you decide to take a cultural safari to Rwanda, some of the things that you will learn from the tour include preparing good local food, enjoying some story telling around a fire, how to use the rudimentary tools that they have in their homes, join in the gardening and also learn a few dialects for easy communication.
One of the best ways in which you can get to experience the real and true culture of the Rwandan people is by visiting the locals in the villages scattered across the country and that is how we come into play, organizing them for you so that you get an experience you will never forget.
The Banda village is located within the Nyungwe forest National Park and one of the places where you will be able to have an exciting cultural experience. Located within the heart of the National park and surrounded by a dense vegetation, you will be welcomed by the locals with traditional singing and dancing and after that you will be given a tour around the village. There are a lot of things you can expect from the Banda village like basket weaving, getting to know the different trees that are used for medicinal purposes, sit around the fire and enjoy the dancing that is done by the locals at night and for all those who are lucky, you might get a glimpse on how the traditional marriages in the country are carried out.
King’s palace in Nyanza
Located a few hours away from the Butare town, the king’s palace is one of the places that you should visit for a cultural trip to the Rwanda. The palace is the right place for tourists to get to know all the past kings of Rwanda, see the royal regalia that was used by the kings that is the shields, spears, animal skin that was used to show bravery and locally made jewelry for the kings. You can take as many photos as you want and also sit on the throne meant for the kings where a chief will come and mock ordain you either as queen or king.
A trip to the Rwanda cannot be complete if you do not visit the Ibyiwacu village. It’s located in a small town that is just right outside the National park called Kinigi and it is a wonderful place to visit and just like in any other village around the country, you will be greatly welcomed by the locals who are always smiling and eager to welcome new people in their community. A tour to the Ibyiwacu village is a series of events that will keep you entertained from the time you arrive and all throughout your entire visit. Some of these events that make the cultural trip to Ibyiwacu village a unique one include:
- When you get to the village, you will be welcomed with a lot of entertaining songs, traditional drumming and singing.
- After the initial welcoming, a group of people in the community will then take you around the village showing you the unique things that make up the community and you will start with the king’s house. The king’s house was traditionally constructed and it is grass thatched, inside the house you will find a throne where you are allowed to sit for a while and then get to receive some powers of the king that will be bestowed on you by a chief who takes care of the throne.
- There are local schools that were constructed by through the funds that are got from tourism and this was to help improve on the education levels of the children in the community.
- You will also get to meet the traditional healer who acts as the doctor in the community. He will show you how the medicine is made from the different leaves, trees, grass and other vegetation that is found around the community.
- The Ibyiwacu village is surrounded by a unique vegetation and landscape that needs to be explored. A trip to the surrounding landscape can easily be arranged for you for as long as you have the time while in the country.
- If you are so much interested in pottery then this is your chance to see them firsthand. The village is filled with Twa people who are the minority in the country and they are so good at pottery. Their pottery works are on display in the village and you can get yourself some of the works as a souvenir for when you get back home.
- The locals will also take you to a place where they make their local brew from. The local brew is made from bananas and you have the chance to see the whole process and also get to taste it with the locals late in the evening around a fire.
While on your trip within the village, try to at least engage in the different activities done by the locals like cooking, fetching firewood, playing with the children and other household activities. The activities will bring you closer to the locals and you will learn more from them than anyone else about their culture.
Kitabi cultural village
The Kitabi cultural village is also found in the Nyungwe National Park but in the eastern side. Within the Kitabi village you will also find the king’s house and within it a throne which you are allowed to admire before joining in the different activities carried out in the village, get to learn how to weave baskets and other crafts. You can also spend the night in the village and get to listen to the different stories that are told by the elders around a fire while enjoying some local dishes.
You can also not talk about the culture of Rwanda without mentioning the genocide and the different Centres that showcase the genocide and how it affected the people of Rwanda and how they overcame it and how it affected them cultural wise and socially.
Bugesera reconciliation village
The Bugesera reconciliation village was set up as a Centre where tourists can easily see how the genocide was experienced in the whole country. It is located right outside the capital city of Rwanda Kigali and it was established by the government of Rwanda to create a place where the people who were affected by the genocide would live in harmony. During the genocide many people lost their lives and their properties and this did not discriminate between the Hutus and Tusti people. This is why when the country gained her peace, the reconciliation village was set up to be a home to both the Hutus and the Tusti where they have been living harmoniously ever since.
A visit to the reconciliation village will give you an insight on how the genocide affected the people, how they reconciled and can now live peacefully and also the developments that have been made by the locals. When you get to the Bugesera reconciliation village, you will be entertained with lots of traditional songs, drumming and dancing.
Imigongo Cow Dung Paintings
The Imigongo Cow Dung paintings are made from local plants that are then mixed with dung from cattle. These are the ingredients from which the paintings are made. To give them a little bit of color, certain pigments are added to the mixture depending on what kind of color is needed.
Rwandan Genocide Memorials
One might mistake these to be more of historical than cultural sites however, it is a little bit of both. These sites hold memories, remains and belongings of millions that lost their lives during the dark times of the 1994 Rwandan genocide triggered by racial and tribalism mentalities. However, there has been a remarkable change since the past events and this has seen has seen the rise of quite a number of memorial museums where different people, among them survivors of the brutal history can go to reflect, grieve and remember those they lost to the genocide.
This rock is one of the greatest historical sites in Rwanda. It is only two hours away from the Kigali City and it attracts foreigners and locals too. The Ndaba Rock is a legendary rock said to be dripping with honey used in the past to attract the locals that surrounded the forest. Among these was Ndaba, a gluttonous hunter who is believed to have disappeared at the rock’s bottom in the honey basin. Legend also has it that before his death, Ndaba’s fellows lowered rope that he was meant to use when climbing up after collecting honey into the pots. Greedy as he was, he ate most of it while the other hunters waited. When he had had enough, it was too late since they were long gone thus in an attempt to climb up he tripped and fell, hitting his head on a rock that killed him. The rock also has a beautiful waterfall that takes your breath away.
Nyamata Cultural Museums
These museums hold so much history on the Rwandan values and community, the kingship of Rwanda and the ancient colonial times. Here, embracing guests is regarded as an indicator of luck –good luck.
Rwanda is very rich in culture that you simply can’t exhaust all the places that tell a story about the Banyarwanda people. Also get time and visit the Museum of Natural History, the Utubindi twa Rubona, the Ethnographic Museum, the Urutare Rwa Ngarama, the Ryamurari, the Royal Residence of King Mutara111 Rudahigwa, the Mimuri and the Museum of Rwanda Ancient History.
Cultural tours all over the world are a fast way of learning about the different cultures practiced in the areas that one decides to visit and this applies to Rwanda. As part of the East African community, Rwanda is a landlocked country which has seen its fair shares of doom that is during the 1994 genocide but you will be glad to know that ever since the genocide ended, there is peace in the country and their unique culture keeps on growing stronger.
There are three ethnic groups in Rwanda from which the current population get their routes from and these were the royal Tusti, the Hutu and the minority Twa people. Before the Genocide, there were two distinct groups of people with different cultures in Rwanda that is the Hutus and the Tusti. The Hutus were the farmers whereas the Tusti who were royalty in the country were the pastoralists.
The Hutus cultivated the land as a way of survival and it was their livelihood. They always participated in farming and hunting and that’s how they survived by growing the different crops in the country. The Hutus on the other hand were the royals and they concentrated more on raring cattle. The number of cattle you had always determined a person’s stature in the country and how rich they were. Although at the moment they are one people and not hunting each other down, you can decide to either visit the farmers or the pastoralists in order to get the different cultural experiences that they both have to offer plus the general ones that they share.