Banyarwanda people



The Banyarwanda, literally "those who come from Rwanda", are the cultural, tribal and linguistic group of people who inhabit mainly Rwanda.

Some Banyarwanda live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, having migrated there from neighbouring Rwanda in waves. In the Congo, they live in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. There are also 1 million Banyarwanda in Uganda, where they live in the west of the country; Umutara and Kitara are the centres of their pastoral and agricultural areas.



The Banyarwanda, through their language of Kinyarwanda, form a subgroup of the Bantu peoples, who inhabit a geographical area stretching east and southward from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes region down to Southern Africa. Scholars from the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, building on earlier work by Malcolm Guthrie, placed Kinyarwanda within the Great Lakes Bantu languages. This classification groups the Banyarwanda with nineteen other ethnic groups including the Barundi, Banyankore, Baganda and Bahunde.


Origins and History

The Banyarwanda are a mixture of Bantu and Nilotic/Nilo-hamitic ethnic groups. They are part of the larger Banyarwanda people living in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, and Kenya. The Bantu, Hutu, originated from central Africa during the 11 th century Bantu migrations and settled in present-day Rwanda, South-western Uganda, and parts of eastern DR. Congo. The Nilotic/Nilo-hamitic, Tutsi, are said to have originated from Ethiopia and settled in different parts of East Africa.
The Hutu and Tutsi that settled in present-day Rwanda became the Banyarwanda people: "People of Rwanda".
In 1910, during the Germán colonial rule in Rwanda, the boundary of Uganda and Rwanda was changed making the Rwandans who were on the new Uganda side, automatically Ugandans. Between 1910 and the period of Second World War (early 1940s), many Rwandans migrated from Rwanda to Uganda to work in Uganda's cotton, coffee, and sugar plantations. Some of them left Rwanda because of the harsh taxation and labour policies that were imposed by the Belgian colonialists in Rwanda.
Between 1959 and 1994, more Rwandans moved to Uganda due to the ethnic conflicts that were in Rwanda. Some of the Rwanda-originating people like the Bafumbira, and the Batwa (who carne from Rwanda), became independent tribes in Uganda - Bafumbira tribe and Batwa tribe respectively. The rest of the Rwandans (Banyarwanda) who settled in Uganda, became the Banyarwanda tribe.
The Banyarwanda in Uganda adopted some cultures ofthe other Ugandan tribes. The Ugandan Banyarwanda arean egalitarian society without a general cultural leader. Much of the tribe leadership is at family level.



The Banyarwanda are pastoral and agricultural people. They keep cattle and also farm millet, cassava, maize, and vegetables. Their staple food is Millet, Cassava and Milk. Millet is called "Uburo", Cassava - "Umwumbati ", Milk - "Amata". From millet or cassava flour, bread is made. Cassava can also be boiled fresh. This bread, and boiled cassava are eaten with "Ibihyimbo" (beans), milk, and milk producís. Their traditional drinks are: Milk, and Urwagwa, a drink made out of bananas.


Dress Code

The Banyarwanda dress code involves men wearing a shirt and trouser with a drape tied diagonally at the shoulder, and hold a walking staff. Women wear Umushanana, a dress or skirt with an over-the-shoulder drape.



The Banyarwanda have a number of dances among which include: Amaraba dance and Intore dance. Amaraba dance and Intore dance are celebration dances. Amaraba dance is a women dance while Intore dance is a warrior IMpl.



Music and dance are an integral part of Banyarwanda ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings and storytelling. The most famous traditional dance is a highly choreographed routine consisting of three components: the umushagiriro, or cow dance, performed by women; the intore, or dance of heroes, performed by men; and the drumming, also traditionally performed by men, on drums known as ingoma. Traditionally, music is transmitted orally, with styles varying between the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Drums are of great importance; the royal drummers enjoyed high status within the court of the king. Drummers play together in groups of varying sizes, usually between seven and nine in number.

Traditionally, Rwandan women of marriageable age and high-status Rwandan men would wear the Amasunzu hairstyle, with the hair styled into elaborate crests.

A considerable amount of traditional arts and crafts is produced by the Banyarwanda, although most originated as functional items rather than purely for decoration. Woven baskets and bowls are especially common. Imigongo, a unique cow dung art, is produced in the southeast of Rwanda, with a history dating back to when the region was part of the independent Gisaka kingdom. The dung is mixed with natural soils of various colours and painted into patterned ridges to form geometric shapes. Other crafts include pottery and wood carving. Traditional housing styles make use of locally available materials; circular or rectangular mud homes with grass-thatched roofs (known as nyakatsi) are the most common. The government has initiated a programme to replace these with more modern materials such as corrugated iron.


Language and literature

Kinyarwanda (also sometimes known as Rwanda language) is the native language of the Banyarwanda, and is spoken as a mother tongue by most Banyarwanda in Rwanda as well as those in the Congo and Uganda. Kinyarwanda is a Bantu language, and is mutually intelligible with Kirundi, an official language of Burundi and Ha, a language of western Tanzania; together, these languages form part of the wider dialect continuum known as Rwanda-Rundi. With more than 10 million Kinyarwanda speakers, and around 20 million for Rwanda-Rundi as a whole, it is one of the largest of the Bantu languages. The language was likely to have been introduced to the area from Cameroon during the Bantu expansion, although the timescale and nature of this migration is not known conclusively. It is likely that these migrations caused Kinyarwanda to replace the native tongue of the Twa, and the Tutsi may also have originally spoken a separate language, under the hypothesis that they migrated from Nilotic speaking regions.

Like most other Bantu languages, Kinyarwanda is tonal and also agglutinative: most words are formed as a series of morphemes, including a prefix, a stem, and sometimes a preprefix. Nouns are divided into sixteen classes, covering both singular and plural nouns. Some of the classes are used exclusively for particular types of noun; for example classes 1 and 2 are for nouns related to people, singular and plural respectively, classes 7, 8 and 11 refer to big versions of nouns in other classes, and class 14 is for abstract nouns. Adjectives applied to nouns generally take a prefix matching the prefix of the noun. For example, the word abantu (people) is a class 2 noun with preprefix a- and prefix ba-; when applying the adjective -biri (two) to that noun, it takes the class 2 prefix ba-, so "two people" translates as abantu babiri; ibintu (things) is a class 4 noun with prefix bi-, thus "two things" translates as ibintu bibiri.

The Banyarwanda do not have a long history of written literature, and very little historical texts exist in the Kinyarwanda language. Writing was introduced during the colonial era, but most Rwandan authors of that time wrote in French. There is, however, a strong tradition of oral literature amongst the Banyarwanda. The royal court included poets (abasizi), who recited Kinyarwanda verse covering topics such as the royal lineage, as well as religion and warfare. History and moral values were also passed down through the generations by word of mouth, and the oral tradition was used as a form of entertainment in precolonial days. The most famous Rwandan literary figure was Alexis Kagame (1912–1981), who carried out and published research into oral traditions as well as writing his own poetry.