Rwandan rituals, festivals, social gatherings, and storytelling all include music and dance. The most renowned traditional dance is a highly choreographed routine consisting of three components: the umushagiriro, or cow dance, performed by women; the intore, or hero’s dance, performed by men; and drumming, also historically done by males, on ingoma drums. The National Ballet is the most well-known dancing company. President Habyarimana founded it in 1974, and it now performs both domestically and internationally. Music has traditionally been passed down orally, with genres differing across social groups. Drums are very important; royal drummers had prominent positions in the King’s court (Mwami). Drummers perform in ensembles of various sizes, often ranging from seven to nine players. The country’s popular music industry is expanding, inspired by African Great Lakes, Congolese, and American music. Hip hop, which combines rap, ragga, R&B, and dance-pop, is the most popular genre.
Traditional arts and crafts are created across the nation, but the majority of them began as utilitarian rather than decorative products. Woven baskets and bowls are particularly popular. Imigongo, a one-of-a-kind cow dung art, is made in the southeast of Rwanda, where it has been practiced since the area was part of the autonomous Gisakakingdom. The excrement is combined with different colored natural soils and painted into patterned ridges to create geometric patterns. Pottery and wood carving are two more skills. Traditional house designs make use of locally accessible resources; the most prevalent are circular or rectangular mud homes with grass-thatched roofs (known as nyakatsi). The government has begun a campaign to replace them with more contemporary materials like corrugated iron.
Rwanda may not have a lengthy history of written literature, but it does have a rich oral culture that includes anything from poetry to folk tales. Many of the country’s moral ideals and historical facts have been handed down through generations. Alexis Kagame (1912–1981) was Rwanda’s most renowned literary personality, conducting and publishing studies into oral traditions as well as composing his own poems. The Rwandan Genocide spawned a literature of witness testimonies, essays, and fiction written by a new generation of authors such as Benjamin Sehene. Several films have been made on the Rwandan Genocide, including the Golden Globe-nominated Hotel Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil, Sometimes in April, and Shooting Dogs, the latter two of which were shot in Rwanda and included survivors as cast members.
Throughout the year, fourteen scheduled national holidays are celebrated, with additional added on occasion by the government. The week after Genocide Memorial Day on April 7 has been recognized as an official week of sorrow. On July 4, the RPF’s triumph against Hutu extremists is commemorated as Liberation Day. Every month on the last Saturday, there is umuganda, a national morning of obligatory community work from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., during which all able-bodied individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 are obliged to do communal chores like as cleaning streets or constructing houses for needy people. During umuganda, most regular services are closed, and public transit is restricted.
Rwandan cuisine is centered on local basic foods grown for subsistence, such as bananas, plantains (known as ibitoke), lentils, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava (manioc). Many Rwandans consume meat just a few times each month. Tilapia is popular among people who live near lakes and have access to fish. The potato, which is believed to have been brought to Rwanda by German and Belgian colonialists, is very popular. Ubugari (or umutsima) is a porridge-like substance prepared from cassava or maize and water that is consumed across the African Great Lakes. Isombe is a dish composed of mashed cassava leaves that is eaten with dried fish. Lunch is often a buffet known as mélange, which includes the aforementioned basics as well as meat on occasion. Brochettes are the most common evening meal, often prepared from goat but sometimes tripe, beef, or fish. Many taverns in rural regions have a brochette vendor who is in charge of caring for and killing the goats, skewering and grilling the meat, and selling it with grilled bananas. Milk, especially in the fermented yoghurt form known as ikivuguto, is a popular beverage across the nation. Other beverages include urwagwa, a traditional brew produced from sorghum or bananas that is used in traditional rites and celebrations. Bralirwa, Rwanda’s largest beverage producer, was founded in the 1950s and is currently listed on the Rwandan Stock Exchange. Bralirwa produces Coca-Cola, Fanta, and Sprite soft drinks under license from The Coca-Cola Company, as well as Primus, Mützig, Amstel, and Turbo King beers. Brasseries des Mille Collines (BMC) started in 2009, producing Skol beer as well as a local variant known as Skol Gatanu; BMC is currently owned by Belgian firm Unibra. East African Breweries operate in the nation as well, importing Guinness, Tusker, and Bell beers, as well as whiskey and spirits.