Every year, on the first Friday of August, Rwandans celebrate Umuganura – the country’s version of thanksgiving.
It is a national holiday.
The genesis of Umuganura dates back in the 9th century, where King’s subjects would convene at his palace with their agricultural harvests and offer them to his majesty the king.
The king then was regarded as God’s representative in the country and the offerings were a token of thanks for his benevolence that had led to a good harvest.
In return, the king would kneel as a show of humility towards his people.
They would then prepare a meal comprising sorghum cake which would be shared with lots of other foods and drinks.
The celebration would also be held at the family level, with the head of the family chairing it.
In 1925, the celebration of Umuganura at the national level was halted by the colonial masters whose intention was to destabilize the unity of Rwandans so as to rule them easily.
However, it could be held on the family level until Rwanda’s independence and more especially post the 20th century when the country decided to return the celebration to the national level.
The day is regarded as a sign of unity among Rwandans and an opportunity to assess the past, celebrate achievements, correct mistakes and appropriately plan for the future.
Considering that agriculture is no longer the sole pillar of the country’s development, so far, the annual celebration of Umuganura is hailed by citizens coming together at both grass root and national levels to share achievements in all sectors and jointly set targets.
With the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is obvious that this year there won’t be large gatherings in celebration of Umuganura.
According to the Ministry of Youth and Culture, this year’s Umuganura will be celebrated at the family level and talk shows related to the event will be aired on various media outlets.
Also, Rwanda’s premier cultural troupe ‘Urukerereza’ will virtually entertain people.
The Day will be celebrated under the theme, “Umuganura: A source of unity and foundation of self-reliance.”
Speaking to The New Times earlier this week, Edouard Bamporiki, the Minister of State Minister in charge of Culture said this year’s Umuganura should be an opportunity for families to socialize.
“Family members living together should celebrate this Day by coming together, celebrate and share what they achieved and assess their current challenges while collectively planning for the future.”
However, he added, this does not imply hosting visitors as inviting people would be a violation of the Covid-19 preventive measures.
Modeste Rutangarwamaboko, the founder of Rwanda Cultural Health Centre also noted communing as a family is the core of this Day.
“Besides convening at the King’s palace, our ancestors would always celebrate Umuganura in their respective families because a family is a very significant pillar of our culture,” he said.
Rutangarwamaboko added that this should be the opportunity to go back to the roots and people who still have parents or guardians prepare gifts to share with them.
Share with the needy
Bamporiki also noted that it is advisable to celebrate Umuganura by sharing with the vulnerable.
“In the Rwandan culture, one can personally tell that his or her neighbor is facing challenges, therefore we advise those who have means to share with those that have financial difficulties as much as they can,” he said.
According to Rutangarwamaboko, if all rituals of Umuganura are observed as they were in ancient Rwanda, the Day can even be used as a platform to promote cultural tourism.