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Preserving Rwandan Culture and Values in Modern Age
Transcript of Preserving Rwandan Culture and Values in Modern Age
By Theoneste Niyonzima, Clement Kabiligi & Diyana Gitera
How do we define culture and values?
A few definitions of culture by sociologists :
“A culture is an ensemble of learned behaviors and results of behavior which are shared and transmitted by members of a particular society”. Linton, R. (1945)
“The essence of a culture (…) is the values, symbols, interpretations and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies. It is not material objects and other tangible aspects of human societies. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols and behaviors (…) in similar ways”. Banks, J.A., Banks, & McGee, C. A. (1989)
How do we define culture and values?
Values have been defined as:
“The principles and fundamental convictions which act as general guide to behavior; the standards by which particular actions are judged to be good or desirable.” J. Halstead, J & M Taylor, Cambridge Journal of Education, 2000.
For example, in South Africa: ‘Ubuntu’ is an ancient African worldview based on the primary values of intense humanness, caring, sharing, respect, compassion and associated values, ensuring a happy and qualitative human community life in the spirit of family. Broodryk, 2002:56
In Rwanda, how are these values and culture preserved?
Educational initiatives to preserve history & knowledge
Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (1989)
All 6 institutions – mostly created after 2004 – show Rwandan cultural or natural richness & provide museums and sites around the country with a platform for education on national heritage.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (2004)
It is a permanent memorial to the country’s genocide victims. It also offers programs for schoolchildren to come and learn about, and from the history of the genocide.
Rwanda Academy of Language & Culture (2010)
Its main responsibility is to safeguard & promote Rwandan language and culture within the country.
It was created in response to the wish of many Rwandans to have a public institution, specifically in charge of language, culture and history of Rwanda.
Political initiatives which promote culture through homegrown solutions
Itorero – in the tradition it was a Rwandan school to spread messages on national culture in areas: language, patriotism, relations, sports, dancing and songs, defense of the nation. It promoted an understanding & attachment to the culture.
Today it is a civic education program with same goals organized at the district & national level
Gacaca (2001) 2005?– traditional courts used for trying genocide suspects and undertaking a reconciliation journey. Dealt with hundreds of thousands of cases
Girinka (2006) – One cow per poor family.
To support vulnerable families economically by offering cows & also a symbolic act: cows represent wealth, love and unity since ancient times in Rwanda (story of King Gihanga who was healed by milk in12th century)
Imihigo (2006) – It is a cultural practice in the tradition where individuals set goals to be achieved within a timeframe despite challenges.
Today, these performance contracts are implemented by local governments & involve communities to achieve Vision 2020 through set targets and accountability
Umuganda (2006) – mandatory community service.
It promotes socio-economic development of the community through e.g. construction of shelters, repair of basic infrastructure etc.
Expresses people’s participation in rebuilding of the nation & contributes to social cohesion among Rwandans
Ubudehe (2001) – Loans offered to vulnerable groups for an income-generating project. From a traditional practice where communities joined to sow on one household’s piece of land and share that harvest. It was meant to help families with few members to effectively work their land
Umushyikirano (2002) – National dialogue with leaders and the Rwandan society.
Annual event chaired by the President and a platform for citizens to exchange views and ask questions to the leadership
Social & arts initiatives
Rwanda National Ballet ‘Urukerereza’ (1974)
A cultural troupe that gathers artists from different districts and regions of Rwanda for the purpose of promoting, conserving and preserving the Rwandan culture through songs, dances, drama, etc
Since mid-1990s, the Rwandan society has initiated number of programs at the political, social and education level inspired from local traditions & values
These programs aim to create homegrown solutions for modern day problems while promoting and preserving the Rwandan culture
Although most initiatives are undergoing assessment by the Rwandan Governance Board in terms of public adhesion, those evaluated showed strong public support (Girinka)