‘Iby’iwacu Cultural Village’ was built in the vicinity of Virunga National Park in Kinigi sector of Musanze district, Northern Province of Rwanda. It is located near the entrance of the Virunga National Park through which tourists pass to visit and consume in the beauty of a Thousand Hills with rare mountain gorilla species.
The village comprises of traditional buildings made in thatched cottages and bamboo replicating the style of buildings in ancient Rwanda.
Inside the buildings are displayed various Rwanda cultural and historical vestiges, symbols reserved for tourists so they can have a glimpse of what the ancient Rwanda experienced.
The lined small buildings are segmented in categories where some buildings are reserved to represent particular cultural trends. Some include traditional tools used by smiths, a milk yard, a rock upon which sorghum grains would be ground into flour known as ‘urusyo’ while other buildings are reserved for exhibitions of how local banana brew known as ‘urwagwa’ was made in a boat , and display of traditional medicine used in Rwanda during the reign of kings.
The village also has a house reflecting the situation at king’s palace, traditional lodges where troops gather for cultural performances as it happened during the reign of kings in Rwanda.
At the entrance, is an old man who is always on standby to recite bravery praise ‘icyivugo’ as part of welcoming visitors of the village.
There are also more old men with spears and shields (ingabo) depicting how security was protected in the past.
On the next traditional building , you find an old man with various traditional medicaments used in the past to treat diseases. His building is surrounded by a garden of planted seeds of herbs from which traditional medicine are extracted all of which are shown to visitors.
On the central part of the ‘Iby’iwacu Cultural Village’ is a king’s palace where tourists enter and receive explanations on components that made the king’s building.
At the entrance of the palace is an old man sitting on the traditional stool performing Inanga, a traditional musical instrument which he does on daily basis as it would happen while entertaining the King.
Apart from the exhibitions, the cultural village has traditional songs and dancers along with other people gathering for traditional ceremonies and performances including drummers and people reciting praises in recognition of cow’s value and bravery reflecting how the King was entertained.
They also hold ceremonies demonstrating weddings in the past where a bride would be carried on a traditional stretcher carried over the shoulders of strong men to the groom ‘ingobyi’.
‘ Iby’iwacu Cultural Village’ was built in 2006. It was mainly created to employ former poachers and their families to have transformed livelihoods through depiction of Rwanda’s culture.
Havugimana Jean Bosco, the chief guide at the village explained to IGIHE that the village was aimed at helping former poachers participate in forest protection and improve household livelihoods.
He explained that a dancer can earn Rwf 40,000 while drummers and old men reciting poems of bravery among others can earn Rwf 30,000 per month.
The village was initiated by Sabuhoro Edwin a private investor who was already working with tourists.
Employed former poachers and families grateful
Mukandayisenga Drocelle, is among employees at ‘Iby’iwacu Cultural Village’ from Nyabigoma cell of Kinigi sector. As a daughter of former poacher, she attests that the village brought so many positive transformations in their lives because they can easily find Mituelle de santé and school fees for children.
Ntibanyendera Martin, an old man from Rukingo village, Murago cell, Gataraga sector of Musanze district has told IGIHE that earnings from the village enabled him to pay school fees for his child who has now completed secondary school.
Hategekimana Eric, a young man from Kinigi who was a cow attests to have built a house worth Rwf 900,000 with earnings from ‘Iby’iwacu Cultural Village’.
All photos by Théophile Niyitegeka