Rwanda Culture

Rwanda is a land locked country that is found in the Eastern part of the African continent. Rwanda became popular after the Rwandan genocide which took place in 1994 between the Tusti and Hutu and as a result many people were killed whereas others were exiled to the different countries around the world.

2000 years ago around the 15th century, a chiefdom king known as Gahinga is believed to have traveled from the west and settled in the area. They were agriculturalists and pastoralists and they are believed to have similar roots to the Banyoro and the Baganda who are found in Uganda. When they reached the place they settled and became the royals of the place and these are the present Tusti and Hutu and they are the only group that were able to resist the earlier attempts of the European penetration.

In 1885, Rwanda became a German colony through the Berlin conference. The Germans came to Rwanda to institute their rule 10 years later but in 1918, Belgium took over and it is at this time that the divisions between the Tusti and Hutu started taking place as they manipulated the locals into doing their will and turning them against each other.

After the end of the genocide, Rwanda has been known as one of the most peaceful countries in Africa with security in all parts of the country. Rwanda has also been voted as one of the cleanest countries in Africa due to its ban against polythene bags and littering the roads is illegal.

Like any other country in Africa, Rwanda has a rich culture and this culture has brought all the Rwandans together despite the minimal differences. The culture is so rich that it is still practiced by those that are in the neighboring countries of Congo and Uganda. Under the Rwandan culture, we have three ethnic groups and these include the Twa, Tusti and Hutu. And even though they all speak the same language known as Kinyarwanda the historical backgrounds for each differ a little but they live together in harmony with the same or different religions. Besides Kinyarwanda, they also communicate with French and a little bit of Swahili.

The tribes in Rwanda

There are majorly three ethnic groups in Rwanda and these have been listed below. However it should be noted that all these tribes connect and have worked hand in hand to bring about the growth in Rwanda.

The Hutu

The Hutu are the largest ethnic group in Rwanda and they are known for thei dominance when it comes to farming.

The Twa

The Twa are one of the oldest people living in Rwanda and they are pygmy hunters. They are also the minority ethnic group with just over 0.25% of the total population of the whole country.

The Tusti

This is the second largest ethnic group in Rwanda. The Tusti are known as the cattle herders in the country and before the genocide, they believed to be of high dominance as compared to other ethnic groups in the country.

The Beliefs in Rwanda

Two thirds of the populations in Rwanda are Christian’s with the majority of them being Catholics. There are also a few Pentecost churches that are coming up of recent and these believe in God to whom they refer to as Imana in Kinyarwanda.

Traditionally, Imana is a supreme being who is believed to have blessed the Kinyarwanda people and it is believed that Imana beings forth the children in the women’s wombs by molding the clay which creates babies and this is why some women still leave a jug with water besides their beds which will be used by Imana to make the babies. A few people still offer to Imana for blessings in their lives during the traditional informal ceremonies.

In Rwanda both the men and women participate in agriculture. The men and the young boys normally cater to the cattle and clearing of the land before the women come to dig, plant, weed and then they all participate in the harvesting process. The men also take care of the construction of the homesteads and other heavy jobs whereas the women do the cooking, cleaning and raising the children.

rwanda dancers

Marriage in Rwandan is taken seriously as many people are told to give birth so as to fill the country. Before marriage in Rwanda was of a desired match by the parents who would connect their children and the payment of bride price, they would start living together. But at the moment, you can choose whoever you want to get married to but note that you will still need the approval from your family before you get married and inter ethnic marriages are also common in this era in Rwanda.

The traditional wear for the Banyarwanda is locally known as the Mushanana and it is put on by women with a skirt and sash draped over one shoulder. These come in different colors and are adorned with colorful beads. The traditional embroidery that they put on is made by the locals themselves from the different materials especially beads. These are used to make head gears, bracelets and anklets for the women. The men usually put on suits and sometimes adorn it with a back cloth to give it a traditional look.

Rwanda traditional weddings involve color and elegance and before the girl is taken, bride price has to be paid and the Nkwanzi with milk has to be given to her by the groom as a sign of respect and recognition.

The languages spoken in Rwanda

The language normally used in Rwanda which is the quickest way to communicate with others is Kinyarwanda. Kinyarwanda is very easy to use and learn and it eases communication especially if you are in the trade business. This is spoken by almost everyone in the country from the young to old people. French is also used as they were colonized by France and Swahili and a little bit of English is also used to communicate with other people I the East African community.

Many of the people who have studied up to the University speak fluent French whereas English is mostly spoken by those who were exiled to other countries and expatriates who go to the country in search of jobs or those who get married in Rwanda.

The dancing and music in Rwanda

This is the best part of the Rwandan culture and it is also one of the leading tourist attractions in Uganda. The dancing is done on different functions from weddings, official ceremonies of the government, the different social gatherings and in schools by the music, dance and drama students.

The traditional dance in Rwanda is locally known as the Intore and it has three components that make up the whole dance. There are always nine energetic men who provide the beat to the dancers by drumming the orchestra drum.

The three parts of the dance include the following parts:

  • The first part is called the heroes dance which is majorly done by the men.

  • The second part is known as the ballet dance which is performed by the women.

  • The last and final part is performed by both the women and women and it is followed by the immense drumming done by the nine men.

The drums that are used in the dancing are made up of two baritones, an alto drum, a soprano drum which is always the smallest, a tenor drum, two bass and double bass drums which are always the largest among the other drums. A local harp locally known as lulunga which has eight strings is also used as an accompaniment for the songs.

The Intore dance group is the oldest dancing group in Rwanda and it was founded centuries ago. The word Intore can be translated to mean the chosen one and it used to perform for the king and the royal court exclusively. Although at the moment they have raveled wide and far and have performed in different countries spreading the Rwandan culture across the globe. And when they are back in the country, they normally perform at the National museum in Huye- Butare.

If you are very fortunate, you might see various cultural groups performing the famous Kinyarwanda dance around the different villages in the country. The Kinyarwanda dance is used to express the feelings of people by the dancers and their facial expressions while performing will tell you the whole story of the dance even when you fail to understand the words that are being sung to accompany the dancers.

It is very hard to imagine Rwanda without music and dance. Way before modernity set in, folk songs were performed as a form of entertainment for the old and young people who would sit at the end of the day around an outside fire to relax. The dances were also performed after a victorious hunting and when one decided to get married.

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