Rwanda Culture And People : 3 Cultural Gems That Make A Rwanda Safari Unique : Rwanda is an East African Country and the fourth-smallest nation on the African continent. Don’t let the country’s reputation for natural beauty and gorilla tracking fool you; Rwanda also has a vibrant African culture that deepens its allure for tourists. The 1994 genocide garners the most attention, yet over 30 years after this tragic event, the Rwandan people have created a new, cohesive identity that places a greater emphasis on national unity than ethnic divisions. A chance to explore Rwanda’s distinctive culture, including its long-standing traditions, customs, and contemporary social norms, is provided through travel there.
Rwandans have a remarkable culture that combines the best elements of the past and present, hidden beneath their friendly smiles and laid-back demeanor. The Amasunzu hairdo, Imigongo art, and the country’s Umuganda ritual will all be covered in this blog post to help you better comprehend this tiny East African safari Destination.
- Amasunzu Hairstyle: A Tribute to Rwandan Culture
A common hairstyle in Rwanda is the Amasunzu. Amasunzu has traditionally served as a symbol of marital availability for both unmarried men and women. Hair was created by cutting it diagonally, creating beautiful patterns that resembled circles inside circles or walls within walls. Hair is frequently cut and fashioned into crescent-shaped waves and radical curves. Amasunzu, which has over thirty varieties, transmits qualities like strength, bravery, and nobility, particularly for men, as well as social duties and prestige in Rwandan society.
The Amasunzu haircut, which went beyond mere fashion to represent Rwandan identity and manners, communicated traits like strength, cleanliness, and even class disparities. Amasunzu has long been associated with Rwandan culture and used to adorn the heads of kings, nobility, and the wealthy. Prior to the arrival of the colonizers, the haircut played a significant role in status and fashion, but it was mostly forgotten until lately.
As a memorial to a bygone cultural identity, Amasunzu is currently undergoing a resurgence, supported by individuals dedicated to preserving Rwandan history. When actress Lupita Nyong’o, the Black Panther star, presented Amasunzu at the 90th Academy Awards in 2017, the significance of the Amasunzu culture was acknowledged on a global scale. Her decision struck a deep chord with Rwandans, paying a moving tribute to the country’s culture. This long-standing custom represents strength and heritage while also serving as a hairstyle and honoring the resilient character of a country.
- Imigongo Art: The Revival of Rwandan Culture
Using cow dung, Imigongo art is a traditional style of Rwandan art. Cow dung, indeed. Imigongo was traditionally made by women out of cow dung in vibrant hues, including black, white, and red. Intricate spiral and geometric designs decorate a variety of surfaces, including canvases, pottery, and walls.
Similar to how we may apply plaster for texture, cow dung is combined with ash to kill bacteria and remove odor to make these images, which are then placed on wooden boards. Imigongo artists use paint with organic colors derived from kaolin, charcoal, banana peel ash, ochre, and other elements after the cow dung has dried. Modern variants add new colors to the conventional palette of black, white, red, grey, and beige-yellow. This Rwandan art form is now utilized to decorate a variety of objects, such as pottery, canvases, and apparel, in a manner that employs pattern and color to create distinctive and bright motifs in challenging geometric shapes.
Imigongo art first appeared in Kibungo, the administrative center, in the 18th century. Imigongo art is sometimes credited with having its origins with Prince Kakira of the Gisaka Kingdom in Nyarubuye. In accordance with Rwandan legend, Imigongo art originally served as a decoration for cow dung flooring in traditional households throughout the country. The Imigongo art form has developed over time, and Rwandans now mostly use vibrant hues like red, yellow, and green to produce eye-catching geometric and abstract shapes.
Many of the skills and methods used to produce the Imigongo were all but eradicated during the 1994 massacre. Fortunately, a women’s cooperative in the Eastern Province close to Kirehe has revived this traditional form of Rwandan culture, incorporating cutting-edge, modern components that reflect the nation’s terrain, flora, and fauna. Tourists can visit cooperatives, pottery workshops, and studios in Kigali and elsewhere to see the artists at work. Today, the art form is a part of Rwanda’s cultural rebirth.
- Umuganda: Rwanda’s Culture of Conservation and Care
In Africa and around the world, Rwanda has accomplished great things since the 1994 tragedy. In terms of societal reimagining and the development of an inclusive, and more significantly, a source of national pride for all Rwandans, Rwanda stands as a beacon of hope. Strict action against plastic pollution, gender equality, gorilla protection, and ecotourism are just a few of Rwanda’s accomplishments.
Currently, women hold 64% of the government jobs in Rwanda. 2008 saw Rwanda enact a widespread ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags, and 2019 saw Rwanda become the first country in Africa to impose an outright ban on all single-use plastics. Rwanda is well known for its effective conservation efforts, protecting threatened species like mountain gorillas, and ecotourism, which generates vital revenue streams for the nation. Programs like gorilla tracking not only support conservation but also significantly enhance the quality of life in the nearby communities. Every year, the Kwita Izina gorilla naming festival honors conservation victories by drawing on Rwandan custom. Even if all of these accomplishments enhance Rwanda’s standing, Umuganda stands out as the Rwandan cultural practice with the greatest influence.
Every month, Rwandans participate in Umuganda, a national day of service. Umuganda was a term for forced labor in the 1970s, but it has been purposefully repurposed in contemporary Rwandan culture. Following the 1994 genocide, President Paul Kagame implemented the policy as “umunsi w’umuganda,” or “contribution made by the community,” as a part of Rwanda’s nation-building effort. Every month on the last Saturday, Rwandans take part in community tasks such as trash collection, tree planting, and even public road repairs. Because of this culture of caring, Rwandans have a great sense of pride in their nation, and visitors will notice the remarkable cleanliness of the country’s scenery.
A Rwanda safari offers a distinctive fusion of history, African culture, and unspoiled natural beauty. While the majority of tourists travel to Rwanda for the great opportunities for chimpanzee and gorilla tracking in their lush mountain habitats, understanding Rwanda involves engaging with its people, coming to terms with its turbulent past, and observing what is possible when a nation works to maintain its togetherness. Amasunzu, Imigongo, and Umuganda are just a few examples of the vast canvas of Rwandan culture that is just waiting to be explored.
You can look at our affordable Rwanda safaris, or speak with one of our knowledgeable travel experts to start organizing your once-in-a-lifetime East African safari.