After spending much of her childhood in the Democratic Republic of Rwanda (DRC), 23-year-old Anuarita Nyirabikundwa barely knew anything about her culture. Her Rwandan origin was something that many childhood friends joked about.
“They would often ask me about my ancestors and what Rwanda was like but I would only be mute. I had no idea,” says Nyirabikundwa.
Her great grandmother would tell her different legends of great Rwandan kings, warriors as well as the culture and traditions of Rwanda.
“I always pestered my grandmother to repeat the story about the most beautiful girl, who grew up in a palace, but was always kept in the milk calabash,” says Nyirabikundwa.
Last year, Nyirabikundwa went to visit her relatives in Nyagatare and was lucky to set her eyes on a calabash. Thanks to the people keep cultural symbols, memoirs and items close to them.
Just like the legend of princes who would never explore the beauty of the palace where the princess in the calabash (igisabo) lived, a country that ignores Her rich culture has invisible chains when it comes to loving and appreciating who they are.
Every culture that disappears diminishes a possibility of life. Keeping culture intact equals to patriotism, self respect, the values of a nation, rich history as well as a great way forward.
Preserving a culture refers to protecting and building museums, genocide memorial sites, traditional items and symbols such as; calabashes, cattle and the various forms of the Kinyarwanda traditional dance among others.
Culture speaks volumes about a nation’s origin and history. In Rwanda where millions were once displaced, it would be a loss to not know anything about our rich culture; however, the Nyanza museum and history books have solved that puzzle. Museums act as evidence that Rwanda had great history, unity, wealth and ethics before Western divisionism infiltrated the cultural settings.
“Culture is the best inheritance we can ever leave for the future generations,” says Abdul Ntamuheza, an Islamic scholar.
Ntamuheza agrees that culture and cultural sites as the best way to shape children or to rebuke them.
“I usually hear parents tell their children, this is not how we behave in the Rwandan culture. Or this is how you should address the issue, in respect of our culture,” he adds.
Additionally, genocide memorial sites have acted as cultural symbols that proclaim ‘Never Again’ to genocide. The Gisozi Memorial Site is equipped with information about pre-colonial Rwanda, Rwanda after colonization, the causes of divisionism and the effects which was the genocide. It demonstrates to the young generation about the dangers of divisionism.
Sure, cultural sites, symbols and practices add value to Rwandans. If Filipinos can exhibit their cultural inheritage, why shouldn’t Rwanda proudly showcase the graceful amaraba dance, for all to see.
When you sit around the fire place narrating stories of the old woman who owned Huye Mountain, of course Huye site will act as great evidence to all the narrations.
Culture is worth sparing and keeping simply because it is unique, our identity and heritage.