Umuganura

Happy thanks giving Rwanda!

Umuganura is an annual event held on the first Friday of August to celebrate Rwanda’s first harvest. This has been part of Rwandan culture for over 1,800 years and it's a public holiday where families, friends and neighbours meet to share the bounty of the harvest.

My earliest memory of umuganura celebrations takes me back in the late 90’s, I was a schoolgirl starting primary school. We went all the way to Rutobwe, Southern province where my dear father comes from to celebrate the food fest, it is the first time I saw sorghum bread known as “Rukacarara”. As part of learning and reconnecting with our roots, although this bread is now and was then rarely consumed in Rwanda, my grandaunt (father’s aunt-in-law) prepared it carefully, explaining step by step the whole cooking process.

Rukacarara is a traditional type of bread dish made from sorghum flour and a dash of cassava flour. Sorghum flour was historically homemade, using traditional mills put together with large cut and polished stones (urusyo & ingasire). Once the sorghum was ground down to obtain the flour, it was poured into boiling water and then removed once cooked, using a wooden ladle called “umwuko”. In the end, a thin marshland plant that is normally found in most wildlife marshes of East African savannah, was used to divide the bread into equal pieces; this type of knife is what we call “urutamyi”. As my grandaunt was proudly demonstrating this to a six year old me, I remember being both curious and scared of the bread’s color, it looked nothing close to anything I had eaten before.

Rukacarara is a famous historical recipe for umuganura celebrations. Sorghum and cassava are two among many other crops grown in Rwanda that we celebrate today. Among them, maize, beans, peas, wheat, sweet potato, cooking banana, etc, and of course not forgetting Rwandan tea and coffee plants that are now among the most sought-after in the world.

Personally, my favourite part of this event is the traditional entertainment. Umuganura is a perfect opportunity to express culture values, designing plays and performances with pure Rwandan identity. On different occasions I have had a chance to attend, even partake in traditional dances, singing, art, and drama ; in my opinion, umuganura is surely the most Rwandaful day.

Amahoro, amahoro - Ubuntu, ubumuntu.