Last Saturday, we celebrated Heroes Day in my neighbourhood (as was the case elsewhere in the country). The topic was about the role my ‘villagemates’ and I could play to promote the Ndi Umunyarwanda concept.
It was a moment to reflect on our shared past and arouse profound interest in increasing our awareness about our history to help reconstruct our story and our identity.
Rwanda has had a tragic past and remembering it is of great importance to everyone than sweeping it under the rug in a futile effort to forget it.
We should not let the past escape us, but instead, be part of us, because, this will give us a solid foundation for our country’s development.
During my reading adventures, I came across a very important topic in public archaeology entitled; “why the past”; I will try to relate it to Ndi Umunyarwanda philosophy.
The manner in which we live today still contains material record of the human past serving as reservoir of archeological and historical knowledge and with Ndi Umunyarwanda programme, we will save the best for last as this will go an extra mile in covering a wider perspective of the community’s social, political, historical and cultural trends.
It will also help disseminate factual evidence about the past for improved public understanding that creates better citizens.
We need to get closer to our cultural and natural heritages with teachings aimed at a reasoned and a reconstructed history for the future lies in both our present and past.
The cultural memory of Rwanda’s past will give us the opportunity, more especially to the young generations to live a shared history.
As we remember and talk about our past, we tend to forge and strengthen our identity.
Today, as we remain concerned with the development of our country, we need to take up the challenges by reflecting on the very relationship between our senses and the past history as a basis for the foundation and preservation of our cultural identity that forge a way for national unity.
Ndi Umunyarwanda will thus cultivate a culture of hope over fear, love over hatred, national identity over ethnicity. This is possible through public outreach campaigns at the grassroots level by making communities feed on the past to enrich the future lifestyle.
Throughout recorded history, scholars in different disciplines have focused on how the past can inform politics, religion, art, and social life of different groups in transforming both human and economic development of a country.
The very idea that human memory is influenced by a variety of factors one of which derives from the social arena in which humans are situated when they remember the past, collectively shapes the reality that enables them to imagine the world in which they live in, and inevitably forms a sense of belonging, intergenerational relations, personal and national identity forming basis for the future.
The importance of memory as an emotional expression for the past must not be taken for granted, for which is what we must strive for to preserve as Rwandans. History is the only means to make sense of the past in the present and memory expresses what should bind us together and be linked to a place.
History is more than the path left by the past; it influences the present and can shape the future. Let’s therefore live a reasoned reconstruction of the past rooted in research as key to survival in the present and in the future.
There is need for all Rwandans to be part and parcel of the past if we are to rebuild this country as one people.
We shall and will always live to not only talk about the dark days that befell our country but also the past good times when Rwanda was a unified society before the colonialists tore it apart.
M. Meredith (2005) in the book, the State of Africa, A history of fifty years of independence, puts it clear: “When European explorers first visited Rwanda in 1854, they found a society which, while consisting of three separate groups (i.e. Hutu, Tutsi and Twa), was relatively homogeneous…these groups shared a common language, lived together as neighbours and, in fact, shared cultural characteristics.”
To be precise here, we need the past to merge the present to the future, for post-mortem purposes, direction purposes, preservation purposes, education purposes and, above all, for progress to take effect.
For we are the ones to make Rwanda a better place for everyone to live in. Let’s pay tribute to the past, while embracing Ndi Umunyarwanda from bottom up, like my ‘villagemates’ and I vowed to on Heroes Day last Saturday.
The writer is a cultural heritage analyst/philosophical studies expert.