Gorilla Guardian’s Village
Gorilla guardian’s village which is also known as Iby’Iwacu cultural village meaning ‘treasure of our home’. This home shows the real treasure behind the existence of tourism in Rwanda and the incredibly amazing experience of Rwanda gorilla trekking. It’s located in Kinigi in the Musanze district of Rwanda. Iby’Iwacu cultural village offers an adventurous stay in the traditional Rwandan village that has existed for centuries living with and next to mountain gorillas in Parc National des Volcans mostly known as Volcanoes National Park.
A brief history of how did Iby’Iwacu cultural village start?
Iby’Iwacu cultural village was founded by Edwin Sabuhoro, and it was started as an emergency response to the increased gorilla poaching activities which were carried out by some members of the community.
Mr. Edwin Sabuhoro worked in the park, and he witnessed poaching activities carried out against wildlife, he also participated in rescuing an injured baby gorilla and he was tired of human-wildlife conflicts around and within the Volcanoes National Park.
After he had experienced the conflicts between humans and wildlife especially the locals in Kinigi village and the mountain gorillas, he decided to pursue his studies in tourism and conservation at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK to find solutions to the rapidly increasing poaching activities in the Volcanoes National Park.
During his master’s degree research entitled “ecotourism as a potential conservation incentive for local communities around Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park”, he found out that the costs met by communities around volcanoes national park were higher than the benefits they get from the park, and the local people weren’t willing to stop poaching, they thought killing wildlife was to compensate for their losses, and they were not benefiting from tourism directly.
Before finishing his research, Mr. Edwin decided to test his hypothesis and offered his life savings to help the community with an alternative source of income other than hunting. He divided US$2000 to 7 groups of poachers around the park each group containing 40 families, and in 9 months 5 of them had done excellent work and were not poaching anymore, they had harvested plenty of food and had enough seeds to plant for the next season’s food, and they shared 200kgs of potatoes with him like a sign of appreciation.
This research proved to him that the village has much potential, to work and fight poverty in the community by getting food, all they need is a little hand to begin, guidance, and monitoring.
From here, he conducted another mini survey to see what most of the tourists want while and after gorilla trekking and it was discovered that they would really want to meet the local people, learn about Rwandan culture, take a walk in the community, and share experiences with the local people and have a taste of their culture.
Given that communities had already had this platform of social gathering and exchange of ideas among the local people in the community, there was just a need to widen the existing social gathering and make it an experience for travelers to the community. He therefore, decided to again to test his hypothesis, he then invested more than $50000 of his difficulty-earned life savings into the project he now believed in that will later change the whole village and provide an incentive towards the reduction of poaching and increase livelihood and economic opportunities for the under-privileged communities around the Volcanoes National Park. But at last, his dream came true and all his efforts gave birth to the famous Gorilla Guardians village also known as Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village.
What a visitor has to expect at Iby’Iwacu cultural village.
Iby’Iwacu cultural village is one of the leading cultural attractions in Rwanda. It gives visitors to Rwanda rare chance to meet local people in their indigenous environment. Travelers are able to visit the different cultural sites and participate in different cultural activities all combined in the Gorilla guardian’s village. The village gives an insight into the everyday lives of the village communities in ancient Rwanda. When the visitors arrive at the main gate they are welcomed by loud drumming, while the local people are singing and dancing in their traditional way of life. This welcomes you to an area with a variety of cultural activities as detailed below;
- Visit the king’s palace replica; Here the visitors have showcased the ancient Rwanda king’s stories, the meaning of different symbols within the palace, and how the kings were enthroned. If you are willing, you can be enthroned to become a king for a few minutes or hours by the village elder and exercise the king’s powers.
- Participate/watch in the traditional dances and music. The village offers different types of traditional dances. When it comes to music, all people in the village men, women, youths, and children have to participate because they find it really interesting. Rwanda has a variety of traditional dances including; the famous Intore dance, Ibyivugo dance, Umuduri dance, Agakenke dance, Inanga dance, Amakondera dance, Iningiri dance, and Ikembe dance.
The Intore dance is the most famous traditional dance of Rwanda, it has a highly choreographed routine consisting of three components and they include;
- The ballet is performed by women.
- The dance of heroes performed by men.
- The drums.
Origin of Intore Dance.
The word ‘Intore’ means warrior. This special Rwanda traditional dance originated from a political asylum-seeker group from Burundi called the Abayange in the early years of the reign of king Mutara II Rwogera in 1830-1853, when the political rivalry broke out in the neighboring southern Burundi kingdom.
A Busoni royal figure called Muyange fled from Burundi with his dancers Abayange and sought asylum in Rwanda. Obviously, such a royal figure had to be given security at the king’s palace.
One day, Abayange were given a chance to entertain king Rwogera at the palace and they exhibited a dance that the king and his army liked. Abayange dance mostly caught the interest of the Rwanda royal army. As a result, Rwanda’s royal army entwined the fighting tactics and songs into the dance that was formerly performed by the Abayange, making it an evolution of the army’s dance.
From then onwards, the army exhibited their heroism only through the dance in a ceremony known as “kuvuga amacumu”, a literary translated as talking about spears, to which added music and dance.
- Meet the traditional healers; Visitors to the village have an opportunity to see the local traditional healer and take a lesson on how to create medicine from local plants and grasses. Village healers played a big role in their communities in ancient times and until now they still do the same thing. When you are at the gorilla guardian’s village, some traditional healers are eager to perform their medical skills, you may feel free to test the local medicine because they may cure longtime illnesses, and a good chance the local herbs have no side effects like the other medicine.
Listen to songs of the gorillas sung by the famous Ngayabatema commonly referred to as Kayuku.
- Make a community walk and again visit the Batwa community. A community walk together with your guide and accompanied by the host in the village can take you across the village and have the best chance to experience African culture right in their communities. One of the most interesting courses of the walk is to visit the Batwa community who were former fruit gatherers and hunters but now adopting a new means of income generation with their incomparable art of pottery. You can also engage in the Batwa pottery-making experience and lessons.
Besides the pottery, you can Join the local people when they go to their agricultural fields to work and learn about their work in planting, weeding, and harvesting. And also learn about food preparations and making processes like millet grinding using stones, carrying potatoes from the garden and water from the wells and ponds around on their heads, attending the lesson and participating in the preparation of local dishes like Ubugari, Igikoma, and many others but feel free to enjoy the meals you have prepared with the local people.
There is always the closing session of the day, the campfire also known as Igitaramo where all the community gathers around the campfire with drums and local dances before sunset, where stories and riddles are recounted by storytellers of the old Rwanda with everyone seated around the fire. The Igitaramo is the climax of your visit to the Iby’Iwacu cultural village and it’s full of fun.