Does the country’s size (geographically) match with its history? From experience, the answer is –NO. Drawing aspirations from both traditions as well as modernity, Rwanda is not a young nation, and telling her past is never easy because of its long legacy, courage, and sense of dignity.
Rwanda has got a unique history that the traveler can time and again always boast of a trip to Rwanda is more than wildlife or the scenery; the real Rwandan face is found in the country’s heritage, culture and the people who, in essence, bring a destination to life. Many visitors come to see wildlife, the primates, the stunning scenery-yes, this is nature tourism but it is important to draw their attention on the real and silent feature of tourism; the people, culture and traditions. They actually dip a toe into a pool and call it swimming. Rwanda has a lot of potential for cultural heritage tourism.
The aspect of cultural tourism does not only expose visitors to Rwanda, to its rich cultural history, to its people and its ways but also helps local communities in terms of infrastructures such as schools, roads, hospitals, and income for its people. Historical evidence in the fields of archaeology, social and natural sciences in Rwanda have made some of the most important discoveries about human history that stretches back in time.
The depth of history, if well preserved, can act as cultural attractions. The country’s cultural richness classified into diversification of crafts and dance, strong traditions does offer unique opportunities in positioning well the image of the country both at the national and international level. The historic buildings, monuments, archaeological and natural heritage sites do not only represent a storage of knowledge about the country’s distant human past and settlement but also score as a major asset in keeping Rwanda’s history in motion.
Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) operates a consortium network of 8 museums (operational) and varied historical, archeological, and natural heritage sites purposely to explore the country’s national historical display with the best cultural and natural legacy. They make dramatic backdrops to an extensive variety of Rwanda’s cultural heritage by offering a traditional menu alongside with silent touristic features that need to be fully exploited, explored and marketed.
Walking through these spectacular museums(Ethnographic, Kings Palace, and National art gallerymuseums-southern province, Natural history, Presidential Palace museums -Kigali city, National Liberation Museum Park- Gicumbi, and Museum of Environment-Karongi) is a wonderful journey that brings visitors and guests much closer to national heritage and gives them a glimpse into personal moments and celebrations.
They represent and bring to view the past lifestyles of Rwanda as a monarchial state (pre-colonial) and colonial era with a historical recipe of reign of Kings that ruled Rwanda at a time, in relation to, before and arrival of Europeans.
The collections exhibited in museums of Rwanda and other heritage assets are of great historic value and portray an image of a country of resilience. The multicultural layers become more vivid as one comes into contact with the cultural industry in Rwanda. A visit to the Kings Palace Museum will enchant one to the historical/traditional dwelling built in a traditional style, with a warm and cozy environment, the modern palace and more striking displays of “inyambo” traditional cows that give a rich insight into Rwandan culture.
To a stone throw away, but still in Nyanza, the National Art Gallery-the only contemporary art museum in Rwanda and probably the only one in the Great Lakes Region, the genius artwork will inspire one into continued creativity. Thebuilding itself has architectural and historical value. It is unique in style for its location and for the time period in which it was built. That is why this museum is a place for inspiration, a place for meetings, and a place for exchanges of experiences between local and international artists.
Because of time and limited space, I conclusively say that, travelling has always been about discovery, and it’s through visiting other countries that we can learn about the world. And despite the risks that haunt our cultural and natural heritage sites across the country, the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) nevertheless has made tremendous efforts to identify research, promote and educate through exhibitions and outreach programs. These communicate and contribute to knowledge that holds humanities deepest values, attitudes and actions towards cultural and natural heritage sustainability.
By David Nkusi- Heritage studies analyst/ Philosophical studies expert