On 8 August 2020, the Rwandan Community Abroad Perth convened the “Umuganura: Rwandan Cultural Harvest Celebration” at the Stirling Community Centre, Perth. The lively event included speeches, cultural performances and traditional foods.
Speakers included RCA-Perth President, Claude Manzi, President of the Organisation of African Communities in WA, Mr Joe Tuazama, City of Stirling Mayor, Mark Irwin, Federal Member for Stirling, Vince Connolly MP, Member for Mirrabooka Janine Freeman MLA, WA Police’s Inspector Don Emanuel-Smith and MMRC’s Celestin Ngoga. Dance performances were by Indatwa.
According to Rwandapedia: “The word Umuganura can be translated as ‘First-Fruits Festival’ in accordance to its meaning in traditional Rwanda. Etymologically, the word Umuganura comes from the verb “Kuganura” which literally means tasting the first fruits of the harvest. In Rwandan Culture, it was prohibited for a family to eat the fruits of their harvest before having had their elders taste. This was called “Kuganuza”.
The traditional Umuganura, which has been described as Rwanda's pre-colonial National Day, was not a harvest festival, as it is sometimes thought today, but a first fruit festival. It was therefore celebrated before harvest. Umuganura was a day of feasting, and giving thanks to God and the Ancestors, not only for the harvest, but also for all the good things in life. The festival was also an occasion to bring together Rwandans from all social ranks in a bid to cement the social fabric of the Rwandan society.
Umuganura festival, at a national level, was marked by processions and march-pasts, parades and fashion shows, as well as a set of traditional games. As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions - culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is the First-Fruits Festival, also known as Umuganura.
Umuganura was reintroduced as national event in 2011 by the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR). This was motivated by the desire to bring together the younger and older generations to share and learn about the diverse, rich and unifying experience of the Rwandan tradition through a yearly celebration of achievements from all sectors that contribute to the development of the country.”
AfREC Director Dr David Mickler and Associate Director (Student Engagement) Dr Barbara Nattabi attended the celebration on behalf of the Centre. Dr Mickler and Dr Nattabi shared their views on the evening in a short video interview.