Rwanda’s cultural heritage ‘huge and untapped’

Rwanda’s cultural heritage, especially the museums, has enormous potential but remain largely untapped, the head of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) has said. Alphonse Bartson-Umuliisa was yesterday addressing a consultative parliamentary session on the country’s museums, youth and sports. Umuliisa said that employees at the national museum “often refer to our cultural heritage in Rwanda as an untapped quarry, or oil”.
One of the King’s palaces that has since  been converted into a museum. Cultural tourism plays a significant role in development. The New Times / File.
One of the King’s palaces that has since been converted into a museum. Cultural tourism plays a significant role in development. The New Times / File.

Rwanda’s cultural heritage, especially the museums, has enormous potential but remain largely untapped, the head of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) has said.

Alphonse Bartson-Umuliisa was yesterday addressing a consultative parliamentary session on the country’s museums, youth and sports.

Umuliisa said that employees at the national museum “often refer to our cultural heritage in Rwanda as an untapped quarry, or oil”.

He explained that tourism based on the country’s culture and heritage plays a significant role in national development.

Umulisa told the lawmakers that the number of visitors to the national museums had significantly increased this year.

According to the statistics he availed, 82,152 people visited the country’s museums, from January to August, this year, compared to 72,214 visitors registered last year.

He told the session that due to measures taken to improve operations, the INMR’s contribution to the national coffers had doubled in one year. By August, revenues had hit Rwf 105 million compared to last year’s Rwf 55 million.

The revenues accrued only from visitors, and not from the sale of mementos and other items on display at the museums.

“Compared to the general development of the country, and to the gorilla tourism and national parks like Akagera, in particular, I think museums have not been given due attention,” he added.

 “We are not going to depend on the national museum in Huye alone. We have five museums, and there are many other heritage sites in the country as well as intangible heritage like music which has not been tapped”.

Umuliisa stressed that a roadmap of the country’s heritage sites needs to be drawn.

He cited entertainment among young people and families which he said was lacking in the country’s heritage sites.

 “We don’t have enough parks, our museums don’t have coffee shops…there is a lot we have to do, in partnership with different agencies – international and national, and government agencies, even the citizens themselves”.

Earlier, Umuliisa told the session that INMR faces challenges including a limited budget and lower salaries compared to similar government departments, a situation he blamed for the fewer number of employees and high turn-over of staff.

Ends

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