Launching the Kinigi Cultural Center

Wellard here again.  In my last post I wrote about my first visit back to the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in my capacity as Enterprise Officer for the IGCP Congo Program after the long civil conflict there. Today I want to share with you a more celebratory and team-oriented reflection from our Rwanda Program:

You did it!” we all screamed towards her, “no, WE did it.., IGCP did it” was the response from Salvatrice, IGCP’s Rwanda Program Enterprise Officer. After all the efforts, time spent, uncountable number of trips from Musanze to Kinigi, discussions with the contractors, meetings with local communities….and still, she was very humble. The day was finally here. And somehow it was her day – a day of reckoning – a day when an IGCP project becomes reality.  The day the Kinigi Cultural Center was launched.

Here is the entrance of the King's hut--a main feature of the Cultural Center.

Here is the entrance of the King's hut--a main feature of the Cultural Center.

One of IGCP’s main pillars is to help local people develop interests in commercial enterprises, especially the rural communities who live in the areas bordering the national parks, and to find creative ways for them to reap viable economic benefits from the presence of wildlife. This is the community incentive context under which the local Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was constructed. Similarly, the Kinigi Cultural Center and Community Walk have now been realized, and serve to diversify tourism revenues, and thus improve livelihoods, for the communities in the shadows of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

A drumming contingent provided the music for the dance troupe.

A drumming contingent provided the music for the dance troupe.

Guests and SACOLA guides get in on the dancing action!

Guests and SACOLA guides get in on the dancing action!

The Cultural Center is a fascinating step back into Rwanda’s not-too-distant past.  Its attractions include a local king’s compound known as igikari.  At the entrance to the huge round hut constructed from locally sourced materials is the place where the King would sit on a stool and hear his people’s grievances, with the queen to this left. In between the King and Queen stands a very important pole: if anyone accused of any wrongdoing was able to touch it after evading the soldiers posted at the door, he or she would be forgiven of their crime. Further inside the hut is the meeting place, or ikiramb, where the King would sit with his guests over a fire as they drank local brews.

Just beyond the ikirambi, is the mu mbere, a waiting room of sorts where selected girls would sit as they waited to go to the King’s bed, or uburiri.

Our hero, Salvatrice, joins the traditional dancers

Our hero, Salvatrice, joins the traditional dancers

The queen had her own hut a little further away from the king’s hut. The compound also included a hut for the king’s main servant in charge of drinks and the main maid in charge of food. One needed permission as well to enter these huts, and they are represented in the Cultural Center complex by a small hut behind that of the King. Expert SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihoods Association) guides recount the fascinating story of the King and his charges to all visitors.

Back to the launching day: it started pretty early for the IGCP team present in Kinigi. The community and our team were busy putting final touches on the event up until the last minute. Everything had to be perfect, as we were expecting dignitaries such as the Governor of Rwanda’s Northern Province, the Mayor of Musanze and the deputy CEO of the Rwandan Development Board, as well as IGCP leadership spearheaded by Director Eugene Rutagarama himself. Our gracious donors did not miss the bus either as they were also present.

Wow! Quite an event, and our team ensured that perfection was the order of the day: you might be surprised to hear that we even helped out with the cleaning beforehand and afterward.

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