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Rwanda - Culture


Rwanda Culture

International awareness of the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda is unfortunately mainly based on the fact that one tried to wipe out the other in the mid-1990s after a long period of cultural suppression and tribal bitterness. The Hutus, who comprise nearly 90% of Rwanda's population, were originally Bantu-speaking farmers who for most of the past five centuries found themselves under the regal thumbs of the minority Tutsis. A large cross-section of the Hutu tribe was responsible for the attempted genocide of Tutsis and the murders of Hutu moderates in Rwanda in 1994 - in the past, they have themselves been the subject of Tutsi-orchestrated killings in Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi.

Tutsis, who make up less than one-fifth of the population, were originally nomadic pastoralists who wandered down into Rwanda in the 16th century and quickly asserted control over the local Hutus. Bolstered by support from Belgian colonialists in the early 20th century, Tutsis continued to rule the ethnic roost until Rwandan independence in 1962. Last but by no means least, the Twa pygmy group - the original inhabitants of Rwanda - make up the remaining 1% of the population.

Kinyarwanda is the language most widely spoken in Rwanda, though you won't find it being spoken in any other African countries. English and French are pretty much tied for second place linguistically, though French probably has the au-dessus main. Swahili is also useful in some parts of the countryside. Christianity dominates in terms of religion, adhered to by two-thirds of the population thanks (or perhaps no thanks at all) to the influx of Christian missionaries under German colonialism in the early 1900s; tribal religious beliefs occupy another 25% of Rwandans, while 10% of residents are Muslims.

Music is a mainstay of local festivals and ceremonies, with drums being the dominant instrument, while traditional dances are similar to those staged in Burundi due primarily to Tutsi influences. The recent proliferation of NGOs means that continental cuisine is never too far away, but it would be a shame to stick to pizza, burgers and fries when ethnic regional staples are in abundance - try tilapia (Nile perch) or the ubiquitous Ethiopian dishes of wat and injera. The local firewater, konyagi, is widely available, as are people who have suffered intense hangovers after drinking too much of it. As alcoholic alternatives, you can also get South African or European wines and the locally favoured Primus and Mulzig beers.



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