Festivals are often an impressive way to celebrate the glorious heritage and cultural traditions. They are occasions meant to rejoice in the special moments in life. Alternatively, festivals play a vital role in connecting members of the same community, families, and background. We get to come together through festivals and broaden our cultural horizons by celebrating diverse ethnic ceremonies. This article will focus on Rwanda’s top festivals and how they have promoted social cohesion.
The FESPAD Cultural Festival
FESPAD is a Pan African Dance Festival celebrated in Rwanda twice every single year. Initially, the festival was introduced by the African Union, and since then, the Rwandan government has been using the festival to endorse unity, peace, and cultural growth. Fespad festivals have occurred in the country since ten years ago.
During Fespad, both locals and international tourists are always in attendance. The likes of the Late Lucky Dube, former south African Musician Lauryn Hill, Grammy Award Winner and American singer, Congolese singer Koffi Olomide, and Nigeria’s ice Prince have graced Fespad festivals held in the past. The experience that comes along with watching the dance styles and listening to international stars is incredible.
The most recent fespad edition occurred in 2018, where performing artists from all over the continent exhibited wares from their specific states in the cultural exhibition.
The Rwanda Film Festival
The Rwandan Film Festival, popularly known as Hillywood, is a film ceremony held yearly in Kigali, Rwanda. This festival has gained widespread popularity over the past years, and to date, it is among Africa’s major film events. The name Hillywood came from Rwanda’s nickname, meaning Land of a Thousand Hills.
The festival was founded in 2005 by Eric Kabera, a Rwandan national. The Rwanda Cinema Center is an organization responsible for any film events during the festival. The primary reason behind the festival was to promote Rwanda’s film industry. Because of Kabers’s desire to entertain large audiences, the films, mostly Rwandan ones, are aired on big screens. The film festival provides room for interaction on other issues like economic, social instead of just genocide.
Although most Rwandan film activities are launched in the country’s capital, some are held ahead of roadshows, in towns, rural areas, etc. This festival contributes to uniting members of society and entertaining people. Entertainment is a vital factor in the development of mental health. Thus, such celebrations should be embraced and developed.
Kigali Up Festival
Every year, Rwandans gather to celebrate Kigali Up, one of east Africa’s biggest festivals. The latter occurs typically in Kigali, Rwanda. During Kigali Up, musicians from all over showcase their singing capabilities. The African Music Festival Network ranks it as the sixth-best music festival in the continent.
In 2018 amid the festival, Alpha Blondy, a famous Rwandan Musician and a winner of Kenya’s TPF, made headlines after delivering a fantastic performance. There were also other international singers like Joey Blake from the United States. Nevertheless, the festival is among the platforms struggling to get Government support.
Previous Kigali Up editions have been successful and have managed to promote Rwanda as a tourism and cultural exchange center. Every year during the festival, about 150 delegates and 25 international, regional artists show up. Eric usually ensures that any time such a festival occurs, the audience has a good experience. Through the festival, artists from all over come together. The unity provides a chance for economic growth and professionalization by developing technical skills like engineering, photography, videography, etc. Some of the festival participants have managed to start their businesses or got employment opportunities in the music industries.
As cultural collaborations are a vital part of the festival, many local artists have managed to work with foreign artists through workshops and master class sessions. Hence, they have grasped some skills. Most of all, Kigali Up has become vital in the region, as most upcoming artists in the county are the festival’s products.
Most of all, the festival’s legacy is to ensure that it becomes the Springboard for Rwandese and regional. That can only be attained if the festival continues to attract culturally relevant events and the most prominent artists. One of Kigali’s primary objectives is to avoid waste and carbon energy and encourage the use of recycled energy.
Hobe Rwanda Festival
Hobe Rwanda is a two-day festival held in Rwanda every September. During Hobe Rwanda, the people display their Rwandan culture entirely. Local musicians, dancers, and artists, poets all gather to showcase their talents. The first-ever Hobe Rwanda Festival was held in 2013, and since then, the festival has always occurred.
In most cases, the festival is preceded by events such as exhibitions of the Rwandan culture, fashions, and artifacts. Many Rwandan photographers, fashion designers, and artists have met up and become friends during the festivals.
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The Gorilla or Kwita Izina Festival
Most African countries, including Rwanda, have a tradition of holding naming ceremonies to welcome their young ones into their communities officially. Traditional African society reports reveal that through name, one acquired a sense of belonging in their community. Fortunately, even contemporary societies adopted the naming system. The Government of Rwanda is no exception, as, through its Development Board, they have adopted naming the mountain gorillas and celebrating the event like a festival.
The festival is a ceremony Rwandan do in celebration of newly born baby gorillas. Kwita Izina has occurred in Rwanda for almost centuries. The ceremony is of significance as it reminds the Rwandans of their close relationship with the great apes who share 99% of our DNA. Actually, historical sources embrace the ideology that humans evolved from the apes.
The festival began in 2005 when the desire to protect endangered mountain gorillas became a concern for Rwanda. The Rwandan Development Board Chief Tourism Officer, Mr. Belise Kariza, in a statement, explains that through Kwita Izina, they are determining where they want to go. Just like while naming our children, the names we give them significantly impact their destiny.
One of the names given to the baby gorillas includes Imbaga. The latter is a symbol for men and women living in biosphere reserves all over the world, engaging collectively and responsibly to build thriving societies in harmony with nature. Other names include Ikipe, Indakemwa, Izahaby, Kunesha, Intaruwa, Umusaruro, and even Uburumbuke, each of which have a meaning.
Meanwhile, the volcanoes Biosphere in Rwanda, being home to mountain gorillas, has contributed to promoting sustainable tourism in the country by fostering socio-economic development and environmental protection. Tourism focused on the natural environment has facilitated a growing part of tourism in Rwanda’s history.
Holding the festival in the biosphere reserve is particularly important. It is home to endangered species and because it is a learning site for sustainable development. It aims to improve the way humans interact with their environments and come up with solutions to reconcile and conserve their biodiversity.
Amid the festival, the people give speeches on habitat conservation, and there are project presentations, debates and exhibitions, and conferences that serve as a forum for conservation and sustainable tourism.
Any Challenges Such Festivals Face?
As much as the Government of Rwanda strives to promote the above festivals’ growth, they occasionally struggle with challenges, some of which might be financial and others because of unavoidable circumstances. Last year, the emergence of a new pandemic, coronavirus, impacted many activities, including the cultural events in Rwanda.
When the virus first emerged in Rwanda, the state authorities were not hesitant to adopt any covid regulations. They banned all unnecessary movements in and out of the country and imposed a lockdown. The two stringent measures negatively impacted the cultural activities, which initially relied on people from all over the continent.
Masking, social distancing, and sanitizing became a culture among nationals. Nevertheless, the ban on social gatherings put a stop to the festivals, limiting interactions. Most events were now occurring virtually. Of course, the measures prompted the deterioration of Rwanda’s economy. Many were not pleased, but what could they do? There was no time to waste, as the virus was spreading rampantly.
Recently, Rwanda is one of the African states to kick off the covid vaccines campaign. The state has been celebrated among the top countries in covid management, though it saw a rise in the numbers during the December holidays last year. It began its vaccination mid this month, starting with the vulnerable populations, i.e., the health officials and the elderly.
Days ago, Rwanda confirmed a decline in covid cases; as such, activities in the country have started to resume usually. Learning institutions, both Primary, Secondary, and Colleges, are expected to reopen as soon as possible. Having relaxed the restrictions, businesses and activities are already operational.
The situation is set to change as with the vaccine, and new hope is restored. Within no time, the cultural activities will resume, though there is no certainty if people will be wearing masks while in attendance. Rwanda’s cultural festivals forever remain significant in their culture and will forever be embraced and appreciated.