RE: “Ahantu rusange: Discovering the Rwandan concept of the public space” (The New Times, October 1).
A quick insight into Rwandan history: In the past – even before the coming of colonialists – there was what was called akarubanda (the public space). This was an absolutely inclusive public space where all had equal rights; it was against the commonly known Rwandans’ privacy. It has more or less same meaning as the writer’s finding (ahantu rusange).
The only difference between akarubanda and today’s public spaces is their locations, number of activities and designs. Akarubanda was mostly an open space on the top of a hill at some occasions under trees or near a very important person’s home (for example, King’s Palace, chefs’ homes, wealthy people’s homes...). It was where public meetings and announcements, sport and leisure competitions like shooting using bows, high jumping and so on, took place.
In fact, Rwandans had been enjoying public spaces and have a name for it since long ago. But public spaces in Rwanda did not evolve with time and changes to accommodate today’s life.
This is why both the Government and people should push for re-designing public spaces in Rwanda in a way that respects both our culture and evolution. And I encourage my colleagues at former KIST (now College of Science and Technology) to keep challenging us on what constitutes public space in the country.
It is important for us (Rwandans) to develop our own understanding of the nature of public spaces. This is something that has been around for generations.
The ability to understand the core values of our traditional ways of socialising or conducting social activities, coupled with all the knowledge that we learn from the exposure to the western world, will undoubtedly allow us to have a city that has both universal and local approach to the creation of buildings and spaces that promote and value socialisation in an urban context.