The national harvest day was an event that came second to the enthronization of a new king. Big as it was, “Umuganura”– literally “Thanks Giving day” was performed by Rwandans at the beginning of every harvest.
It was a very big event in the kingdom as Rwandans celebrated the achievements in terms of harvest both at the kingdom and family level. The trace for this event remains futile as no exact date is pronounced as to when this event could have been introduced in Rwanda. But research in this field connects it with the introduction of agriculture in Rwanda during the 3rd century.
This celebration was institutionalised basing on how and the way it was well organised from the higher authority down to the family level. At the national level, the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ was led by the head of ‘Abiru’ called “Umutwarew’Umuganura” coming from abatsobe clan. According to Alexis Kagame, apart from the King and the Queen-Mother, no one else was more powerful than “Umutwarew’Umuganura”. The ceremonies were launched on national level by the King – ‘Umwani’, at the cell level by the chief and in the family by the head of the family. In the beginning of the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ Rwandans focused mainly on staple foods like sorghum and finger millet. The celebration started at a national level in August and came to an end in June next year. During this period, every Rwandan had the opportunity to celebrate while sharing with relatives, neighbors and friends.
This, however, came to an end and was abolished by colonialists at the time in 1925 when the last “Umutwarew’Umuganura” Gashamuraka Rukangirashyamba was chased out of the country and he was forced to go in exile in Burundi. Six years later, the King Yuhi IV Musinga, who had always been in conflict with colonial power and missionaries by defending Rwandan cultural values and identity, was also chased out of the country and went into exile in Congo.
Why celebrate “Umuganura”?
From history, the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ used to be a unifying factor for all Rwandans though acts of sharing what they had produced either at the family level, in the village or as a kingdom. The rich and the poor, the higher and modest families all came together and shared what they had without exclusion as a form of promoting Rwandan cultural values.
This kind of tradition in Rwanda will always bring to view the past with the positive cultural values that we can use to build, unite and reconcile Rwanda as a nation.
As a form of preserving Rwandan Culture, the celebration of ‘Umuganura’ will educate the young generation on the value and power of safeguarding the past legacy for edutainment purposes. At the heart of every Rwandan in and outside the country, the event will help raise awareness among Rwandans, friends of Rwanda and policy makers on how the ‘Umuganura’ celebration was a very significant part in creating unity in diversity.
With an aim of diversifying Rwanda Tourism, this event will put cultural Tourism on tourism calendar, and in so doing, showcase Rwanda’s social and economic tradition. Read more