Renamed the Gorilla Guardian Village, this amazing site is situated next to the car park at the trailhead for the Sabyinyo Group and Group Thirteen. This award- winning venture was founded in 2004 by Edwin Sabuhoro of Rwanda Eco- tours to help improve the livelihood of communities living around volcanoes National Park, thereby reducing human pressure on the park’s resources. The cultural village is essentially the public flagship for an ambitious project that provides legitimate employment in fields such as vegetation and poachers.
Iby’Iwacu offers a busy Programme that lasts about two and slots in ideally after a morning’s gorilla tracking. The setting is a fantastic wood and thatch replica of a traditional Rwandan palace, second only in size to the restored palace at Nyanza Museum, and an ideal stage for traditional Intore dancers to share their drumming and dance routines. Also on offer are short community walks, a church visit, a consultation with a traditional healer, shooting a bow and arrow with one of the local Batwa pygmies, and demonstrations of activities such as grinding millet and sorghum, making banana beer and harvesting potatoes and other crops.
What to expect at the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village
As we have already seen briefly, the Iby’iwacu cultural Centre is designed to offer many interesting learning activities while at the same time allowing visitors to relax and get a feel of the local culture. Visitors are usually welcomed by loud dancing and drumming at the main gate which is only an indicator of the many great activities forthcoming.
Home visits and community walks: The best way to understand the diversity within the human race is by interacting, sharing and generally getting immersed in the cultures of different communities. The home visits and community walks while visiting the Gorilla Guardians Village gives visitors great opportunities to understand the cultural uniqueness of the Kinyarwanda culture and heritage. During a visit to the Iby’iwacu cultural village, you get the chance to sit side by side with the locals in their traditional homes and grass thatched huts. As you sit down, the elders will share with you information and stories about Rwanda and her rich history/heritage. You will be presented with an opportunity to visit the local banana and vegetable plantations. You might even learn the art of preparing one of the traditional foods or using a special grinding stone to make fine millet flour.
The community walk is a great learning experience too. A Guide will take you to see some of the local schools around and understand the education system in place as you interact with the pupils and students. One particular interesting activity during these community walks are the numerous local art shops offering local paintings, woven clothes, beautiful pots and much more.
Watching, listening and dancing to traditional music, dance and drama: Music, dance and drama defines African tradition and culture as it gives one a sense of belonging. For visitors interested in traditional music, the Iby’iwacu cultural center offers opportunities to listen to several unique local musical sounds including the Ingoma, Amakondera, Umuduri, Inanga, Iningiri, Ibyivugo and Agakenke. Each sound is unique, with special musical instruments and dancing style/steps. The Intore is one example. This popular warrior dance is performed by men with grass clothing and little bells wrapped around their legs while holding out spears in a mock battle or as a way of celebrating victory over an enemy. These youthful men and women with their smiling and happy faces will be eager to invite you to take part in the dance or at least learn how to drum.
Visiting the King’s palace: The Ancient kings in Rwanda were not only feared but given total respect. The kings held the highest authority and would make decisions that had to be implemented without any further questions. All kingdom activities and ceremonies were carried out within the King’s palace under the watch of the king, queens, princesses, princes, clan leaders and high level visitors. The King’s home in Iby’iwacu gives a true picture of an ancient African kingdom setting with all symbols to represent power including information about each clan. A guide will help explain and answer all your questions as you go through each symbol.
Meeting traditional healers: In the ancient times (and in even today) traditional healers played a big role in their communities. They were consulted by people whenever they had any ailments. These traditional healers used herbs, tree branches, roots, shrubs and to help cure known illnesses. The healers know how to apply these drugs and have studied their use for many years while building on knowledge and ideas that have been taught for thousands of generations. They are proud to narrate how traditional medicine has survived through colonial times to remain influential in the modern times. While at the Gorilla Guardians Cultural Village, you will meet some of the traditional healers who will be eager to demonstrate how the local medicines work. Since they use natural remedies, you are free to try out some of the local herbs – You might be surprised to find a remedy for or relief from an illness you had struggled with for years.
Visiting the Batwa community: The Batwa pygmies are former forest hunters and fruit gatherers who once lived in the dense forests of Rwanda and Uganda. They were evicted from the forests decades ago by governments and resettled in new locations outside the forest. Some of them are stationed at the Iby’iwacu cultural Centre. The Batwa have greatly contributed to the tourism sectors in Uganda and Rwanda ever since embracing life outside the forest and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by tourism. After abandoning poaching and life in the forest as hunters and gatherers, the Batwa have learnt pottery, art and design, dance and drama. While at the Iby’iwacu cultural village, you will be amazed by their demonstration of hunting skills like setting up animal traps, using tools like spears, bows and arrows.
Taking local brew: Apart from the joy and relaxation that drinking alcohol brings, taking local beer in a group setting was a unifying activity within the African traditional social setting. This was particularly so during the numerous ceremonies like that of new harvest and welcoming newborns. For one to fit in and appear involved during these ceremonies, they had to take part in the drinking. While visiting the Iby’iwacu cultural village, you will learn how the banana brew is made and fermented. You are expected to actively participate crowning it with at least a sip of the final product.
Rules and Regulations to follow while at Iby’iwacu Cultural Village:
By following the rules and regulations below, you can help to preserve the unique environment and culture of Iby’iwacu cultural village.
Always use our dust bins and carry all non-degradable litter.
Plants should be left to flourish in their natural environment-taking cuttings, seeds and roots are illegal at Iby’iwacu cultural village.
When taking photographs, respect privacy, ask the community leader or guide if it is alright and use restraint.
Do not give children empty bottles “agacupa” it encourages begging. A donation to the community project is a more constructive way to help, and only give to the community leader. You can support by offering clean water, buy local products, financial support to set up health centres, schools and so on.
You will be accepted and welcomed if you follow local customs. Use only your right hand when greeting and eating. It’s also polite to use both hands while giving and receiving gifts.
Respect for local etiquette earns respect. Light weight clothes are preferable to revealing or see-through, skimpy tops and tight fitting action wear. Kissing in public is disliked by local people – aim at reserving cultural norms.
Be patient, friendly and sensitive. Remember you are a visitor to community.
We like to share our culture with you and learn about your culture too, so kindly let us know about your culture, you never know we might have something in common or some thing to add on your culture that can be impressive.
In case of anything that is unusual to you, ask the community leader to explain for you, it might mean something important to you and the entire community.
You are all welcome to Iby’iwacu cultural village