Umuganura: one of the changing Rwandan traditional practices

Traditional medicine man show his skills to a young generation during Umuganura event 2014

Traditional medicine man show his skills to a young generation during Umuganura event 2014


Umuganura, a traditional cultural event that used to bring communities together to share seasonal agricultural produce has now changed its focus to celebrating the country’s achievements such as social welfare, Justice and security.

In Rwandan tradition, Umuganura was one of the most important ceremonies performed by Rwandans at the beginning of every harvest season. This event came second to the most important ceremony in the Rwandan kingdom, which was the coronation of the new King.

Back then, ceremonies were launched at the National level by the King – “Umwami”, at the village level it was officiated by the village chief and in the family by the head of the family.

During these celebrations Rwandans mainly focused on the most appreciated seeds in Rwanda, which was sorghum and finger millet.

Now that Rwanda is focusing on becoming a top tourist destination in the Africa, Rwandans this August, celebrated the third umuganura event under the theme “Umuganura” a Pillar to Self-reliance.

The new focus however showcased some changes in the umuganura event, this time around having modern and traditional craftsmen exhibitions, carnival dance on different streets of Kigali, Inyambo parade(Special traditional cows breed display) at the Urukari ancient history museum among others.

Changing times

Besides keeping the essence of celebrating the first harvest through traditional dances, dramas and sharing beer which was originally part of the ancient practices of celebrating the Umuganura, the event was also marked with bringing out some typical Africa traditional aspects.

During an exhibition at the Amahoro Stadium, on July 30th, some of the traditional aspects of the Rwandan culture also were brought in the limelight as a way of educating the populace about the traditional practices-such as clay pottery techniques, fire making, string instrument playing, use of the grinding stone, and arts and crafts without leaving out the practice of magic and supernatural power practices.

Since times have changed, the need to integrate the umuganura event with modern trends was also evident by showcasing modern ICT and health facilities, art of photography, citizen registration, and tourism opportunities and customer care services (Na Yombi) spearheaded by the Rwanda development board (RDB).

This was also accompanied by a sense of regional integration with live bands playing a cross section of music genres from central African to the east African region.

Lauren Makuza, the Director of culture in the Ministry of Sports and Culture says that “Rwanda cannot go back to the ancient times, but Rwandans must celebrate the event with a focus on new trends, achievements and the way forward.”

The Minister of agriculture Geraldine Mukeshimana said that Umuganura was not just a day to celebrate, but an occasion to look back and acknowledge how far Rwanda come, and the focus on a productive future.

“It is not only a traditional way of celebrating the agricultural produce and an opportunity to plan ahead the productivity. “We need to work more and use technology in our daily works to meet the standard of today’s world”. She said.

The Belgian Colonial Administration, former colonial bosses of Rwanda (Then Ruanda-Urundi) banned umuganurain 1925, for fear that the ceremony was giving more influence to the King- Musinga. The Umuganura event was however revived three years ago.

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