The diaspora’s connection to Gakondo, Rwanda’s traditional culture, is a fascinating narrative. From music and dance to cuisine and fashion, it is undeniable that the diaspora serves as custodians and innovators, revitalizing Gakondo while adapting to new environments. ALSO READ: Rwandans in Switzerland embrace unity, resilience at end of year celebration Rutsobe Nsengiyumva, a Rwandan residing in the US, emphasizes the importance of every Rwandan in embracing patriotism as a fundamental obligation, forming a crucial part of who they are. Having experienced exile and witnessing parental struggles due to lack of connection with their homeland, he acknowledges the significance of patriotism in shaping their love for their country. “This is personal experience and it showed me the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty to Rwanda,” he said. Reflecting on the big role of patriotism in the 1990s, especially during a period of oppression targeting the Tutsi by then, the father of two underscores the significance of this spirit, drawing line on the role Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) played to fight that oppression. “As a parent, I actively promote Rwandan products by purchasing locally made clothing when visiting Rwanda and encouraging my children to proudly wear these clothes whenever they go to the US. Despite my children being Americans, instilling a sense of pride in their Rwandan heritage remains a priority, ensuring they remember and honor their roots in various aspects of their lives,” he noted. ALSO READ: Survey on Rwanda's creative, cultural industries highlights work ahead Yvette Umutangana, President of Rwanda’s diaspora in Flandre Occidentale-Belgium and Vice President at Federal level, expressed that while they aim to embrace their culture, they haven’t yet achieved their desired level. She said: “In Belgium, the practice of ‘Umuganda’ is conducted, and the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ commenced in 2017. This aims to restore their Gakondo in the diaspora and uplift our cultural heritage. Umutangana said that Umuganda, which previously held in certain areas where Rwandans reside in Belgium, will expand to most regions, each having its designated day for the activity. A positive aspect of Umuganda is that it fosters familiarity among Rwandans who might not have known each other previously. “Within the diaspora, there’s a strong desire to educate our children, fearing the potential loss of their cultural heritage if our children adopt another culture. We seek to nurture our children in our own traditions, recognizing the importance of initiatives aimed at reviving and fully embracing our cultural identity,” she noted. Umutangana pointed out that in 2023, over 50 diaspora women, attended Itorero in Rwanda at Nkumba, Musanze District. They received valuable insights and committed to making it an annual tradition. “We also have for our children, focusing on teaching them Rwandan culture, dance, language (Kinyarwanda), and values. Additionally, ‘Akagoroba k’Ababyeyi’ (mother’s evening) gatherings help us delve deeper into Rwandan values,” she said. “When it comes to cherishing Gakondo concerts, performers who visit Belgium, take us through these moments to connect with and celebrate our beautiful culture through reflection and dance,” Umutangana said. “Embracing our culture is crucial. For me, having my home is enough to fuel my patriotism.” ALSO READ: Who are some of the key players in Rwanda’s creative industry? Renowned Gakondo singer Masamba Intore, told The New Times that Rwandan cultural entertainment has reached levels of interest to be showcased in prestigious festivals like Giant of Africa, Trace Awards, Move Africa, and others. “When I perform before Rwandan diaspora, especially in the USA, there’s a connection because of their strong nostalgia,” he said, acknowledging that seeing traditional artists makes them feel intimately connected to Rwanda.” He added: “When I visit, I mostly share songs about Rwanda, fostering love for the country and encouraging their return to their homeland. These are the things they long to witness and thirst for. They also take pride in showcasing their culture and traditions to fellow friends of Rwandans, demonstrating their singing and dancing traditional style to them.” “Beyond the spectacle and its essence, he continued, our culture played a pivotal role in the country’s revival from a once considered ‘dead’ state.” ALSO READ: Intango Cultural Night: Showcasing Rwanda’s culinary heritage Hariette Mutesi, a student in Belgium, said that Rwandans in the diaspora cherish Gakondo to maintain a connection with their roots. They uphold traditions through music, dance, fashion, cuisine, language, stories, and community events. She said: “Engaging with Gakondo music involves learning traditional dance moves and wearing attire like ‘Umukeneyero’ and ‘Umwitero’. This experience evokes a sense of being back home, typically reserved for special occasions like weddings and Rwanda-related events such as ‘Umuganura’, ‘Umuganda’ and others.” She added: “The preparation of traditional dishes, such as a mix of sweet potatoes with beans, boiled maize, and pumpkin, helps Rwandans abroad reconnect with their homeland through cuisine. Language and stories are also vital. Teaching young people basic Kinyarwanda phrases and exploring Rwandan folk tales and literature play a big role in imparting a deeper understanding of the culture to the younger generation,” she added.