Culture of Rwanda

Rwanda has a rich culture, apparent in the diversity of crafts, dance, and strong traditions.  Community projects throughout the country offer unique opportunities to meet local people in the traditional context while sharing experiences of cooking, fishing and even learning local crafts.  There are several tea and coffee experiences to be had and numerous museums, memorials and historical sites to explore.

Imigongo Art

A popular art form, usually produced by women, using cow dung.  The dung is dried and mixed with colors made from organic material, like plants, to create mostly black, white and red paints.  This paint mixture is then applied on walls, pottery or canvas in spiral forms or geometric designs.

Historically, Prince Kakira, the son of the King of Gisaka, living in the Province of Kibungo, known today as the Eastern Province, invented the art of decorating houses.

Art is found throughout the country, but a visit to the local Kakira co-operative (named after Prince Kakira) is worthwhile to see artists at work.  The local co-operative in the village of Nyakarimbi near Rusmo Falls border with Tanzania.

Agaseke baskets

Traditionally the baskets are made from sisal and papyrus tree fibres, which are soaked in water for up to two weeks to soften them.  They are then beaten with stones and left to dry before being woven.

The natural fibres create the natural pale gold color which is decorated with the black patterns from boiling the roots and seeds of the Urukangi plant or banana flowers into a black dye.

These days a number of dye colors and patterns are seen displaying the diverse creativity in the making of the baskets.  

In Rwanda tradition, these baskets served as containers to transport valued foods such as eggs, beans, meat, and other valuable objects.  They were presented as wedding gifts to a bride and groom.  After the 1994 genocide the smaller baskets have become symbols of peace, as Hutus, Tutsi, and Twa women sit side by side weaving the “peace baskets”.

Traditional Music and Dance

Music has always played an important role in the civil, economic and social life of Rwanda, and has a strong oral tradition of storytelling.  All events in Rwanda are embellished with traditional songs and dance: weddings, birth celebrations, traditional baptism (guterekera), anniversaries, launching of new projects, political parties or the welcoming of important visitors.  The 5/8 rhythm distinguishes, Rwandese music from other African music.  While dancers dance, members of the chorus clap their hands to give rhythm and to cheer, encourage, and support the dancers.

Intore Dances

Dance is a collective and celebrated experience.  The variety of music and dance demonstrate epicts acts commemorating excellence and bravery.  Intore, which means the ‘Dance of Heroes’, or ‘The Chosen Ones’, was traditionally performed before the Royal Court by warriors who were celebrating their victory in battle.  The men wearing long haired grass wigs and carrying spears dance rhythmically form side to side to the sound of ‘Ingoma’ drums.  These celebratory dances include a drum orchestra of seven to nine members.  Traditional sons, which often include humorous lyrics, are accompanied by a lulunga, an 8 stringed instrument.

To see this spectacular traditional dance performed by the Intore dancers, be sure to visit the Ethonographic Museum in Huye.