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Rwanda People and culture


Discover Rwanda people and culture, traditions, practices, and lifestyle with Intaresafaris. Rwanda consists of three major tribes; the Hutu also known as Abahutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa or Batwa however the Tutsi and the Hutu outnumber the Batwa- forest dwellers. All these 3 tribes speak the same local language “Kinyarwanda” and share the same cultural heritage. Batwa people might have a small distinction from the rest Rwandese because they are pygmies and originally forest inhabitants.

Kinyarwanda as a common language is a unifying factor within Rwanda. Closely related to Kirundi (spoken in Burundi), Mashi (spoken in the South Kivu region of Congo), and Kiha (spoken in northwestern Tanzania), Kinyarwanda is a Bantu language. Less than 10 percent of Rwanda’s population also speaks French, and a small portion speaks English, primarily refugees returned from Uganda and Kenya. Kinyarwanda is the primary cultural identifier for Rwandans living outside Rwanda.


Rwanda has a vast number of cultural and traditional practices and beliefs due to the existence of several tribes in the country such as the HutuTutsi, and Twa, people. Let’s discover the insights and practices of these people and their cultural heritage.

The Hutu people of Rwanda

The largest and dominant ethnic group in Rwanda. The Hutu also known as the Abahutu, are a Bantu ethnic or social group native to the African Great Lakes region of Africa, primarily areas now under Burundi and Rwanda. They mainly live in Rwanda, Burundi, and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they form one of the principal population divisions alongside the Tutsi and the Twa. The Hutu contribute the largest population in Rwanda with over 84%.

The Hutu are believed to have first emigrated to the Great Lake region from West Africa in the great Bantu expansion. Various theories have emerged to explain the purported physical differences between them and their fellow Bantu-speaking neighbors, the Tutsi. One such thesis, largely based on oral tradition, posits that the Tutsi experienced some admixture with or were partially descended from migrants of East African stock, who usually were said to have arrived in the Great Lakes region from the Horn of Africa.

The Tutsi

The second dominant tribe holds 15% of the population. Tutsi, also called Batusi, Tussi, Watusi, or Watutsi, is an ethnic group of probable Nilotic origin, whose members live within Rwanda and Burundi. The Tutsi form about 15% of the population currently. The Tutsis’ numbers in Rwanda were greatly reduced by a government-inspired genocidal campaign against them in 1994. The Tutsi adopted the mutually intelligible Bantu languages Rwanda and Rundi, which were originally spoken by the Hutu.

The Tutsi first penetrated the area in the 14th or 15th century, entering from the northeast seeking new rangelands. Though they were skilled warriors, they obtained dominance over the resident Hutu through a slow and largely peaceful infiltration. The Tutsi established a feudal relationship with the Hutu, gaining dominance due to their possession of cattle and their more advanced knowledge of warfare. At the head of the Tutsis’ complex hierarchical political structure was the mwami (“king”), who was considered to be of divine origin.

The Twa/Batwa

Also known as the people of Forest. The Twa people (or Batwa) are considered to be the forgotten victims of the Rwandan war and genocide; their suffering has gone largely unrecognized. Twa claim to be the original inhabitants of Rwanda, being related to other forest peoples of Central Africa and this is justifiable since they not readily distinguishable from their compatriots, whose language and religious beliefs they share.

The Twa maintain a rich and distinctive cultural tradition centred on songs, dance and music. Of the 33,000 Rwandan Twa in an estimated 600 households, as estimated by CUARWA in 2004, none are thought to maintain a traditional existence as forest-dwellers. Twa are dispersed throughout the country in small groups. Most work as potters, though others earn a living as day laborers or porters. Almost none own land or cattle. There are a number of other Twa populations in the Congo forest and South Western Uganda’s Bwindi and mgahinga highlands as well.

The art of craftsmanship in Rwanda

Discover the unmatched creativity of Rwandese. Rwanda people are deeply blessed with artistic and creative skills of crafts making and a visit to Rwanda will glance your eyes on souvenirs made by the local Rwandan people like clay pots, woven papyrus mats and baskets, jewelry, art pictorials, wood carvings, and many others. Rwanda today has many art and craft villages in both urban and remote areas where any tourist on a Rwanda safari or tour can easily buy souvenirs or any preferred art pieces.

The common craft villages include Ivuka art center, Rwanda Nziza, and Caplaki craft village among others. All the crafts in Rwanda are produced countrywide and each region is well known for its special and unique crafts. The southeastern part is for example famous for its Imigongo- a mixture of cow dung and various natural colored soils painted into decorative folds to make various shapes and designs.

Music, Dance, and Drama in Rwanda

Cultural performances and dances by Rwanda people. Music, dance, and drama play a great role in the traditions of Rwandan people. Performances range from destinations of bravery and excellence to humorous dance styles and lyrics, to artistry based in traditional agricultural roots. Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lulunga-a harp-like instrument with eight strings. More festival dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.

Live dance performances can be seen at the Iby’ Iwacu cultural village in Musanze or at the National Museum of Rwanda. The finest display of Rwanda varied dynamic traditional music and dance styles are performed by the Itore Dance Troupes (pictured left). Founded several countries ago, the Itore –literally meaning “the chosen ones” their exciting act can be arranged at short notice through the National Museum in Huye. A more modern form of Rwandan music is the upbeat and harmonious devotional singing that can be heard in any church service around the country.

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