Nyiransibura: The legend who birthed Lake Kivu

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 30 November 2020 at 04:51

Rwanda, the country of thousand hills is a small country with impressive, historical and cultural vestiges. The country’s history is passed from generation to generation through oral traditional and written literature.

As of today, the world is moving fast shifting from analogue to digital. More artistic creations are kept in written form and other digital means. It is against this background that Rwanda has also adapted to emerging technology whereby different of oral traditions can be found in different books, online sources or kept through audio-visual records.The oral tradition was most common during the reign of Kings.

Long ago, during the reign of Kings, written literature was not popular. To keep record of all activities happening across kingdoms, oral traditional took center stage. To this end, all poets rooting from Nyirarumaga said to be the matriarchy of all poets in Rwanda had their works memorized. The tales of then were also memorized and transmitted to generations up to date.

One of them is the mysterious tale of Nyiransibura, a mythical woman attributed to the creation of Lake Kivu. The woman is said to have existed during the reign of King Ndahiro III Cyamatare according to Rwanda’s oral traditions.

The Kings of ancient Rwanda are classified into three dynasties. These include Ibimanuka, (the Descents), or the Divine Kings; Abami b’Umushumi (the Kings of the Cord) and Abami b’Ibitekerezo (the Kings of Mind). The Descents are said to originate from heaven. Their existence dates from the reign of Shyerezo to Kazi, the last of this dynasty.

Kings of the Cord are kings with no records of their tenure and deeds. Their dynasty start from Gihanga cyahanze Inka n’Ingoma (the creator of cow and kingdom) to king Cyilima I Rugwe while the Kings of Mind are those with well-known deeds and traceable genealogy. Their kingdom dates back from the reign of Kigeli I Mukobanya to the last King of Rwanda, Kigeli V Ndahindurwa.

Gihanga Ngomijana was the first King of the Cord between 1091-1124. He is considered the creator of Rwanda. The history of these dynasties is the subject of the royal myths.

Nyiransibura’s tale dates back to the reign of King Ndahiro III Cyamatare.

Long ago, King Ndahiro III Cyamatare abducted and took hostage of a woman called Nyiransibura the daughter of Muriro, creature from the country of ‘Bunyabungo’(currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo). Upon arrival, Nyiransibura was given a regular task of cleaning at the king’s home.

One day, a strange noise aroused when King Ndahiro was in a meeting with his subordinates. They attributed the noise to witchcraft from Abanyabungo who might have come to rescue their daughter.

The agenda of the meeting soon changed to discuss the next course of action for their hostage, Nyiransibura. They agreed on returning Nyiransibura to homeland rather than killing her.

As the envoys took Nyiransibura home, they reached a region called Kinyaga (currently in Rusizi district) where a rainmaker (umuvubyi) welcomed them and married Nyiransibura. The rainmaker treated Nyiransibura gently with much love in a beautiful valley of Kinyaga where they happily lived together.

Kinyaga is said to be far distant from Ndahiro III Cyamatare’s residence.

During delivery, the placenta rupture left plenty liquids, filling the valley hence creating Lake Kivu. The home of Nyiransibura’s witch was left in the middle of the liquids squirted from the placenta and became an isle (said to be the current ‘Ijwi’). This is how Rwanda’s fairy-tales narrated the creation of Lake Kivu.

The delivered child was named Nsibura and stayed with her mother. He took care of father’s cows but also had intentions to attack King Ndahiro and revenge for her mother’s abduction.

Nyiransibura’s tale dates back to the reign of King Ndahiro III Cyamatare. She is said to have squirted Lake Kivu.