Given the fact that some people lost their more knowledgeable elders (when it comes to culture) due to various reasons, the most practical way to learn more about Rwandan culture is to visit cultural centres around the country.
Several people have asked me how I got to know so much about Rwandan Culture. Truthfully speaking, I was lucky to grow up in an extended family where my grandparents explained different cultural traits to me. I still ask my grandmother about our culture. I also miss no opportunity to visit cultural centres since they have tour guides who explain our cultural literature and historical traits – giving reasons why some are scarcely practiced today.
Cultural centres in Rwanda such as the Historical Arts Museum in Rukali, Nyanza, Kitabi Cultural Village in Nyugwe, the Iby’ Iwacu Cultural Village in Musanze and the National Museum of Rwanda in Huye portray Rwanda‘s rich heritage. These centres display the finest of Rwanda’s diverse and dynamic traditional music and dance performed by the Intore Dance Troupes.
At the cultural centres, a wide range of traditional handicrafts produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from baskets to traditional woodcarvings and paintings are on display. They also have pictures portraying the kind of sports Rwandans in the ancient times played.
I was surprised when my 12-year-old cousin told me she had never visited any cultural centre. This hit me really hard and I asked myself if she will ever know the practical side of her country‘s rich heritage. When I asked her what kind of clothes our ancestors wore, she insisted clothing hadn’t changed!
She does not know Inkanda or Ishabure - although she has heard about them before. Inkanda was a dress for married women while Ishabure was a dress for girls.
I think schools should organize field trips to cultural centres so that students get practical lessons rather than just feeding them with theories.
There is one discouraging thing about local Rwandans; they think that cultural villages and centres are for foreigners. The mentality that these centres are meant for tourists should change. It’s disheartening when a foreigner knows more about your own culture and history. It’s like a mother who can’t tell the difference between her identical twins! The rates charged for locals visiting these centres are pocket friendly.
Rwanda’s traditional and cultural heritage has become popular in the world; therefore as Rwandans, we really need to appreciate our own cultural traits.