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Gorilla Guardians Village/Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village Near Volcanoes National Park
‘Iby’Iwacu’ means ‘treasure of our home’ or ‘our heritage’, thus the village exhibits the real treasure behind the existence of Rwanda as a nation. This cultural village is located close to Volcanoes National Park in Nyabigoma, Kinigi, and Musanze district.
How Did Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village Start
Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village cultural village started as a response to gorilla poaching which was carried out by some members of the community and was on the increase in-spite of the park recruiting more rangers for the protection of the mountain gorillas.
The village was developed by Edwin Sabuhoro, who worked in the park, witnessed poaching activities, participated in rescuing a poached baby gorilla and was disturbed by human-wildlife conflicts around and within the park.
He decided to pursue his studies in Tourism and Conservation at University of Kent in Canterbury, UK to find solutions to this.
During his Master’s degree research entitled “ecotourism as a potential conservation incentive for local communities around Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans”, he found that the costs met by communities around Volcanoes National Park were higher than benefits they get, and were more than willing not to stop poaching and killing wildlife to compensate for the losses, and that they were not benefiting from tourism directly.
Before finishing his research, he decided to test his hypothesis and offered his life savings to help the community with an alternative source of income.
He offered and divided US$ 2000 to 7 groups (40 families each) of poachers around the park, and in 9 months 5 of them had done excellent work and were not poaching any more, had harvested food and had seeds to plant for the next season’s food, and shared with him 200kgs of potatoes.
This proved to him that the village has a potential, to work and curb down poverty in their community, get food, all they need is a little hand to begin, guidance and monitoring.
From here, he conducted another mini survey to see what tourist would want while and after trekking gorillas and it was apparent that they would want to meet local people, learn about the Rwandan culture, take a walk in the community and share experiences and have a taste of their culture.
Given the fact that communities had this platform of social gathering and exchange, there was need to widen this and make it an experience for travelers to the community, this gave birth to the Gorilla Guardians.
He therefore decided to invest more than $50,000 of his hard earned income to the project he believed in that later came to change the whole village and provided much needed incentive towards the reduction of poaching and increasing livelihood economic opportunities for the under-privileged around the park.
What Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village Offers To Visitors
Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village gives visitor rare chance to meet local people, in their environment, with a taste of Rwanda culture and traditions.
Travelers can visit the different cultural sites in the community and get insight into the everyday lives of the village communities.
There is the king’s house replica where visitors are told about;
- The King’s stories
- The meanings of different symbols within the palace
- How the kings were enthroned
The village offers different types of traditional dances by all community categories; men, women, youths and the children. These include;
This is the most famous traditional dance of Rwanda, a highly choreographed routine consisting of three components – the ballet, performed by women; the dance of heroes, performed by men, and the drums. The word ‘Intore’ means warrior.
Origin Of Intore Dance
This special Rwanda traditional dance originated from a political asylum-seeker group from Burundi.
In the early years of the reign of King Mutara II Rwogera (1830-1853), political rivalry broke out in the neighbouring southern Burundi Kingdom.
A Busoni royal figure called Muyange fled for his life from Burundi with his dancers called ‘Abayange’ and sought asylum in Rwanda.
Obviously, such a royal figure had to be given security at the king’s palace. One day, the Abayange were given chance to entertain King Rwogera at the palace and they exhibited a dance that was liked.
Abayange’s dance caught the interest of Rwanda’s royal army but somewhere somehow it was wanting; not satisfying the vacuum in Rwanda’s army for performing in poetry alone.
As a result, Rwandans entwined fighting tactics and songs into the dance, making an evolution of an army’s dance, the Intore dance, which emerged quite different from the one it came from.
From then onwards, the army that exhibited their heroism only through epic poetry in a ceremony known as “Kuvuga Amacumu”, literary translated as ‘talking about spears’, to which was added music and dance.
Other traditional dances offered at Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village include;
- Ibyivugo dance
- Umuduri dance
- Ikembe dance
- Iningiri dance
- Inanga dance
- Amakondera dance
- Agakenke dance
Besides the traditional dances, visitor to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village have an opportunity to See the local traditional medicines and take a lesson from a traditional healer in how to create medicinal elixirs from local plants and grasses.
Listen to ‘Songs of the Gorillas’ sang by the famous Ngayabatema, commonly referred to as Kayuku.
Have a Batwa pottery making experience, lessons and engagement
Join local people when they go to their agricultural fields to work and learn about their work, harvest and participate in food preparation and making processes like millet grinding using stones, carrying potatoes and water on their heads, and attend lessons and participate in preparing a local dish i.e. (Ubugari, Igikoma etc).
There is a campfire (Igitaramo) where all gather around camp fire, with drums and local dances before sunset, where stories, riddles are recounted by storytellers of the old Rwanda with everyone seated around the fire.