UMUGANURA: Celebrating Rwanda’s Cultural Values

The national harvest day was an event that came second to the enthronization of a new king. “Umuganura”– literally “Thanks Giving day” was performed by Rwandans at the beginning of every harvest. It was a very big event in the kingdom as Rwandans celebrated the achievements in terms of harvest both at the kingdom and family level.
Guests sharing Milk at the fete. (Photos by Francis Byaruhanga)
Guests sharing Milk at the fete. (Photos by Francis Byaruhanga)

The national harvest day was an event that came second to the enthronization of a new king. Umuganura”– literally “Thanks Giving day” was performed by Rwandans at the beginning of every harvest. It was a very big event in the kingdom as Rwandans celebrated the achievements in terms of harvest both at the kingdom and family level.

The trace for this event, when exactly it was first celebrated remains evasive; no exact date is pronounced as to when this event could have been introduced in Rwanda. But research in this field connects it with the introduction of agriculture in Rwanda during the 3rd century.

In the beginning of the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ Rwandans focused mainly on staple foods like sorghum and finger millet. From history, the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ used to be a unifying factor for all Rwandans through acts of sharing what they had produced either at the family level, in the village or as a kingdom. The rich and the poor, the higher and middle families all came together and shared what they had without exclusion as a form of promoting Rwandan cultural values.

As a form of preserving Rwandan Culture, the celebration of ‘Umuganura’  educates the young generation on the value and power of safeguarding the past legacy for edutainment purposes. At the heart of every Rwandan in and outside the country, the event helps raise awareness among Rwandans, friends of Rwanda and policy makers on how the ‘Umuganura’ celebration was a very significant part in creating unity in diversity. This kind of tradition in Rwanda always brings to view the past with the positive cultural values that we can use to build, unite and reconcile Rwanda as a nation.

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Inyambo traditional cattle

The African Union’s Agenda 2063, aspires to transform Africa socially, economically and culture is put at the Centre of transformation.

Aspiration #5 of African union agenda 2063 focuses transforming Africa’s cultural economic structure “an Africa with a strong cultural

This year’s Umuganura festival was celebrated alongside FESPAD, a Pan-African festival that showcases cultural dances/performances.

Meanwhile, in a meeting that took place last week called to give an insight about the celebration of umuganura, representatives , from government institutions and researchers from diverse entities met for discussions looking on how economy could be raised by exploiting well the culture and heritage.

Uwacu Julienne, minister for sports and culture, said that there is a close link between culture and development.

She argued that the existence of good practices like Umuganura are the  unique practices that could be tapped into income generating activities for raising the economy.

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Attendants sharing the staple food at Umuganura fete.

She noted that some African nations have managed to excel faster in their economic development because they based their economy on the culture.

Amb. Fatuma Ndangiza, the deputy chief executive of Rwanda Governance Board in charge of governance promotion and decentralization, noted that cultural tourism could be the  alternative in building the economy.

“We can ably rely on other forms of tourist attractions other than the gorilla only. Our cultural heritage can be tapped into to increase the number of tourist attractions. Therefore it’s time that we ventured in cultural tourism which is dependent on our culture with many components like dance, art and drama”, she said.

She also added that cultural tourism is possible because Rwanda is rich in cultural sites which could be well maintained and preserved to attract tourists in big numbers.

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Traditional dancers dancing at the fete.

Musoni Protais, the acting chairperson of the Pan-African Movement, Rwanda chapter said there are cultural practices which should be exploited extensively like weaving mats, baskets, and other traditional handcrafts.

 He advised that Rwandans need to increase the quality of their products so that they could sell them on the international markets. “Rwandans shouldn’t despise their homemade crafts; instead they have to be confident in whatever they are doing”, he said.

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Boiled maize characterised the feast of harvest

 

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