The Culture Of Rwanda

By Joseph Kiprop on October 16 2018 in Society

Tribal drummers of the Batwa Tribe perform a traditional dance in Rwanda. Editorial credit: atm2003 /
Tribal drummers of the Batwa Tribe perform a traditional dance in Rwanda. Editorial credit: atm2003 /

Rwanda is an African nation that occupies an area of 10,169 square miles in the central region of the continent. In 2015, it was home to roughly 11,262,564 people which at the time was the 76th highest population in the world. Scientists believe that human settlement in Rwanda's territory dates back to the end of the last ice age. Evidence indicates the land within Rwanda's borders was fertile even during the previous ice age which could have attracted a significant number of agricultural societies. The Twa, a hunter-gatherer community, was the first to settle within Rwanda's borders. During the Stone Age, it is believed that Rwanda had a small population of hunter-gatherers and the number of people living within the region increased significantly during the Iron Age. The Iron Age Rwandan communities were known to have produced items such as pottery and tools. The Twa lost their dominance in the region after the arrival of a Bantu group referred to as the Hutus. The migration of Rwanda's other main ethnic group, the Tutsis, is a matter of considerable academic debate. A kingdom emerged within Rwanda's borders, and it ruled over the significant Rwandan ethnic groups. During the colonial period, Germany achieved control of Rwanda, but they lost the territory after their defeat in the First World War. Russia's extensive history greatly influenced the nation's culture.

6. Religions Practiced

The Rwandan constitution guarantees the rights of the citizens to practice a religion of their choice. A vast majority of Rwandese practice Christianity with Roman Catholicism being the most popular Christian denomination. Other Christian denominations with a significant number of followers include Protestants and Seventh-Day Adventists. The Jehovah's Witnesses is one of the smallest Christian denominations in Rwanda as a 2017 report indicated that it had roughly 29,000 adherents. Islam has a significant number of followers as approximately 4.6% of the residents are Muslims. Sunni Islam is the most dominant form of Islam within Rwanda's borders. Hindus and Buddhists in Rwanda form a tiny minority with most adherents being foreigners working in Rwanda. Due to the substantial number of Christians in Rwanda, several organizations with ties to various churches operate in the country. Despite the important role that religion has played in Rwanda, it was cited by the Organization of African Unity report as one of the factors that contributed to the genocide. The report indicated that the historical practices of Roman Catholic missionaries favoring the Tutsi over the Hutu contributed to the tribal tensions in the country.

5. Festivals

Festivals are an integral part of the Rwandese culture and are usually held to celebrate important occasions in society. One of the most important moments in Rwandese culture is the birth of a child. The culture dictates that a large ceremony is held to celebrate the birth and select a name. One of the most important events in Rwanda is Kwita Izina which is held every year around September. The event is usually marked at the local and the national level and is a celebration of the country's gorillas. Another festival is the Umuganda day which is held as national day of cleaning. They day is held from 8:00 to 11:00 and it is a nationwide exercise where all citizens participate in communal work.

4. Cuisine

The nation's climate influences the meals that are prepared, with some of the most commonly used ingredients being sweet potatoes, bananas, and cassava. One of the most widely eaten meals in the country is Ugali, a dish made of corn flour, which is also popular in several other East African countries such as Kenya. Another popular meal consumed in Rwanda is Matoke, which is made from plantains. The meal is also popular in Uganda. Apart from traditional meals, international cuisines mainly Indian and Chinese are popular particularly in hotels in Kigali. Fast food particularly French fries are also popular with the younger Rwandese people. Beer is one of the most commonly drunk beverages in Rwanda with urwagwa, a traditional brew being common in rural areas. Other widely consumed beverages in Rwanda include milk, wine, and fruit juices.

3. Music And Dance

Music, both traditional and modern, is an essential part of Rwandan life. Traditional Rwandese music is popularized by amatorero troupes which are found all over the country. Apart from performing the traditional songs, they teach the next generation of Rwandese performers. The Ballet National Urukerereza is one of the most well-known amatorero troupes as it even represented Rwanda in some international events. Rwandese folk music is used to preserve the myths and legends of the communities through a tradition known as ikinimba. The songs performed during this tradition usually make use of instruments such as ingoma and umuduri. One of the most popular Rwandese folk musicians is Jean-Paul Samputu who was the recipient of two Kora Awards. The music scene in Rwanda has attracted several investors that have helped it to flourish. Although the genocide drastically disrupted music production in the country, new stars such as Tom Close and Miss Jojo have gained popularity in the country. Rwandese musicians perform at some festivals such as Kigali Up that has provided a platform to several young artists.

2. Literature

The literature industry in Rwanda is relatively young compared to other countries in the world since the Europeans introduced reading and writing in the country. Despite the relative youth of its written literature, Rwanda has a wealth of oral literature. During the pre-colonial period, a form of oral poetry emerged within the kingdom of Rwanda. The poetry was generally used to record the genealogy of the ruling family. One of the most prominent Rwandese authors was Joseph Sebarenzi who wrote the book God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation.The Rwandan genocide also inspired Rwandan authors such as Immaculée Ilibagiza who wrote a book on her experiences during the genocide.

1. Social Beliefs And Etiquettes

Data from the World Bank indicated that in 2016, 70% of Rwanda's citizens live in rural areas. The way of life in rural areas is significantly different from urban areas due to the influence of western culture. In rural areas, heavy emphasis is placed on traditional values. Social etiquette is expected from all the members of society regardless of where they live. Rwandese societies are generally regarded as some of the most polite in the world.

More in Society