The continuous rise of Rwanda’s economic and tourism sector can be likened to the ancient mythical bird, the phoenix, which regenerates and starts another life cycle from its ashes. Rwanda, now referred to as Africa’s Silicon Valley, hosts several festivals that pull in diaspora Rwandans and tourists who travel to the country annually to enjoy these festivities.
Rwanda, just south of the Equator in central Africa, is a mountainous land. This tiny, landlocked country—the continent’s most densely populated—gained independence from Belgium in 1962. In 1994, the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis by Hutus occurred before Tutsi forces could gain control of Rwanda.
Despite this horrid past, the country has become an inspiration as it continues to rise from ashes to become the envy of other countries on the continent. Here are 5 Rwandan festivals you wouldn’t want to miss when visiting this beautiful country.
1. Gorilla Naming or Kwita Izina
Rwandans and most African countries have a tradition of holding naming ceremonies to officially welcome their young ones into the community. The Government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Development Board has adopted the same concept for the Mountain Gorillas in the country.
The species are endangered as part of conservation efforts. The Kwita Izina was instituted in 2015 where newborn gorillas are given unique names to create awareness about the endangered species in the world.
The ceremony which attracts thousands of locals and international audiences is held once a year at the Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park.
Fespad is a Pan-African dance festival held biannually to showcase Rwanda’s dance culture to both locals and tourists. It was a festival birthed by the African Union (AU), however, the Rwandan Government has been placed at the helm of the festival to coordinate all activities meant to promote unity, peace and culture through African dances.
The most recent edition was held in July 2018 where most of the countries on the continent performed their traditional dances and exhibited wares form their countries in a cultural exhibition.
3. Rwanda Film Festival
The film festival popularly known as Hillywood brings together filmmakers in Rwanda, the rest of the continent and the world together every year where they screen films and organize workshops for the public amid pop-up cinemas.
Hillywood has been running for more than a decade and it is mostly held in Kigali every July. Although most of the activities are held in Kigali, there are road shows that go to the towns and villages around the country.
4. Kigali Up
Thousands of fans troupe into Rwanda for this intimate music festival launched in 2011 and it’s fast becoming Rwanda’s number one music festival. The concert stages host different music genres ranging from blues to pop, hip to reggae and music lovers from around the globe grace the festival.
5. Hobe Rwanda Festival
Hobe is a two-day festival held in September that puts Rwanda’s culture on full-on display. It displays the work of local musicians, dancers and artists. The first one was held in 2013 and since then international acts also get the chance to perform.