As indicated in my previous articles, the oral document known as Ubucurabwenge (the seekers of knowledge), which contains the genealogies of the kings of Rwanda, is the pillar of the entire Rwandan tradition. The three other major documents - the myths ‘Ibitekerezo’, the ‘Ubwiru’ rituals and the symbolic poetry, ‘Ibisigo’- all follow the structure and pattern of the royal lists given in Ubucurabwenge.
The royal lists were compiled and memorized by a group called Abacurabwenge (“those that seek knowledge “).
It has been said that the lists were recited during the coronation ceremonies, although the text of the coronation ritual just mentions that the new King and Queen Mother are resented under their new names, without specifying that their full genealogy is recited at that occasion.
The list itself is given in reverse order, beginning with the reigning King and Queen Mother, and ending with Muntu (Man, Mankind), the first King of Men, son of Kigwa, son of Nkuba Shyerezo, the King of Heaven.
The List spans forty-three (43) reigns, listing the names of the King and Queen Mother, with their ascendancy on the mother and father’s side. The Ubucurabwenge lists were recorded and published by Alexis Kagame in his book Inganji Kalinga .
The oral document known as Ubucurabwenge, or “Amasekuruza y’Abami” (Genealogy of the Kings), is a long list of kings and queen mothers, with their paternal and maternal ascendants. The list covers forty-three reigns, grouped in three dynasties:
1. Ibimanuka, the “Descents”, or the Divine Kings
2. Abami b’Umushumi, the Kings of the Cord
3. Abami b’Ibitekerezo, the Kings of Mind
The history of these dynasties is the subject of the royal myths, but a brief introduction to the meaning and import of the Rwandan royal lists may not be out of order here.
To be continued…
Seth K Buhigiro works at the Kigali International Airport