Why every Rwandan should visit cultural museums

It will be too difficult for the young generation to sustain ancient values and knowledge let alone survive waves of globalisation, if they don’t take time to learn from a few of such surviving historical facts conserved in museums around the country, conservationists have said.
Visitors being shown around at the former King's Palace-Rukari museum on Friday. Athan Tashobya.
Visitors being shown around at the former King's Palace-Rukari museum on Friday. Athan Tashobya.

It will be too difficult for the young generation to sustain ancient values and knowledge let alone survive waves of globalisation, if they don’t take time to learn from a few of such surviving historical facts conserved in museums around the country, conservationists have said.

This was highlighted on Friday as Rwanda joined the rest of the world to mark International Museum day .

 

The event was held at the National Art Gallery Museum, which is located just a few meters from the King’s Palace Museum-Rukari. The Arts Museum, which was originally built for King Mutara III Rudahigwa, did not serve its purpose as the Mwami (King) passed away before staying there. It now displays handmade crafts, revealing the creativity of Rwandan artists.

 
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International Museum Day celebration included an excursion tour of several Museums around the country. Here, Stakeholders vist the former King's Palace, Rukari. Athan Tashobya.

High school students from several schools around Nyanza District attended the event, a move aimed at encouraging young people to visit such institutions that conserve a collection of natural and historical artifacts, according to Amb. Robert Masozera, Director General of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR).

 

“This year we decided to bring together students from Nyanza such that we encourage them to learn from the rich history of their district. But certainly next year we want to bring in schools from different districts, to compete on several cultural games; in so doing we will be developing a generation that will survive negative aspects of globalisation while upholding some of the an ancient Rwandan values and beliefs,” Masozera said.

This year, INMR staged schools competition on Traditional Dance, Arts, Drama and poetry, with only Nyanza-based High schools competing against each other. However, he noted that moving forward, they would bring in several stakeholders to partner with INMR in staging a national contest with big prizes at stake.

“This is perhaps one major way we could encourage young people to take interest in their culture. We have quite a rich history and our cultural values are too precious a tool to keep us moving as a united nation,” Masozera added.

The event to mark International museum day was held under the theme; “Our culture, the foundation of Rwandan identity”

The event involved a dance carnival from Groupe Scolaire Nyanza B, which is apparently known to have been a former palace of King Mutara III Rudahigwa, before he planned to build a new palace (now an art gallery) and it ended at the Arts Museums, about 5 kilometres.

Erasme Ntazinda, the Mayor of Nyanza District, was optimistic that once the country keeps International Museum Day it will certainly have more impact towards the growth and resilience of the Rwandan culture.

“Judging from what we saw from those that participated in the cultural competition, it is very evident that people know our cultural values and heritage but we need to take it a bit further and see it transform people’s lives economically.

“I urge teachers and heads of schools to embrace the culture of school competitions targeting culture and heritage sector for the sustainability of culture and well as the development of museums.” Ntazinda said.

Nyanza is historically known to be the beacon of Rwandan culture and its no coincidence that International Museum’s Day was held here. The district is a home to two of the seven museums in Rwanda.

Ntazinda share the same sentiments as Amb. Masozera that next year, the schools’ cultural competition should be taken to the national level to benefit a bigger magnitude of young Rwandans.

Keza Nadia, 15, the overall best perfomer in drawing, told Sunday Times that, “it is very important that the government have come out to give young people yet another chance to learn about the history of Rwanda. This will perhaps compliment on our modern day knowledge to create in us the pride of being who we are as Rwandans.”

With a rich history that dates back to the kingdoms, colonial and post-colonial times; with artifacts and regal symbols that have been explored to attract local and foreign tourists, bringing in revenue and creating awareness about the culture of the Rwandan people, the museums are contributing to national pride and development.

Before 1994 there was only one museum in Rwanda, the National Museum of Rwanda, located in former Butare Province (the former colonial capital) and present day Huye District in the Southern Province.

However, the number of museums has since grown from one to eight, including the Museums on the Campaign against the Genocide, which is due to be inugarated later this year. Other Museums include, Environment Museum, Former King’s Palace, National Art Gallery, Natural History, National Libration, Presidential Palace, and Ethnographic museums.

In a recent interview, Masozera said that the museum subsector is one that lagged behind in the local tourism.

“We have come a long way, from one museum a few years ago to now eight museums (Including one on campaign against the Genocide Museum, to be opened in July),” he said.

According to Masozera, tourism revenues have significantly increased with the increase in tourists, a sign he feels that shows great potential museums have in economic development of the country.

“The number of tourists to all museums has increased 200,000 per year from 1000 tourists about 19 years ago. Revenues have also increased to about Rwf200 million per fiscal year. But we are not satisfied with these figures, we want to change the mindset of our people, make more investments and see numbers grow further,” he said.

Masozera said that, initially, museums were largely visited by foreign tourists but gradually local tourists have increasingly begun to visit museums, “ appositive trend towards local tourism growth.”

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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