Umuganura literally meaning National Harvest Day was in the earlier days celebrated in August. The National Harvest Day celebration is an important ceremony in the Rwanda History.
Culture is not static but some traditions have to be maintained for many generations
It was a ceremony that was held in high regard by our forefathers since they where giving thanks to their God for the great things and deeds granted to them annually. The ceremony signified love, unity and prosperity amongst Rwandans.
After the coming of the colonialist in Rwanda and the earlier regimes, the day was watered down and it was not celebrated anymore beginning in 1925.
In an Interview with The Sunday Times during the Umuganura celebrations held on August 3rd, 2012 at Historical Museum Nyanza Rukali, the 90-year-old Mzee Ezra Mpyisi said that the Umuganura was always memorable amongst Rwandans.
"What we are celebrating today is slightly different from what happened in the earlier days. But its so inspiring that the culture is being revived and that traditions are being passed onto the next generation," Mpyisi expresses
He says: "I was able to understand the several practices that where carried the last time the Umuganura was celebrated. Farmers would showcase their harvest to the King, the day would be filled with drinks mainly alcohol and food as well as dances and several sports of the time such as throwing spears. The day would be celebrated every August each year."
He also advises the youth to get involved in celebrations such as Umuganura so that they can learn the history of their forefathers.
"Since most of us are now old and are passing on, it's important that the youth participate in such ceremonies so that they can pass on the traditions to their children in future. Culture is not static but some traditions have to be maintained for many generations," Mpyisi explains.
24-year-old Shadia Umutoni, who witnessed culture and history being revived during the National Harvest Day at the Historical Museum Nyanza Rukali, says that she felt directly connected to her forefathers.
"This day has taught me a lot regarding the ceremony and communal gathering of our forefathers. Through the drama portrayed by Ingazongari Cultural Dance Troupe, I have learnt lot and I will narrate to my friends what I have seen today," excited Umutoni reveals.
She says: "I also advise the youth to always protect and promote our culture by also taking part in such ceremonies because they are the ones to pass on the traditions in future."
With the current Government's desire to revive Rwanda 's rich Cultural Heritage, the celebrations of Umuganura was re-invented in 2011 by Institute of National Museums of Rwanda in collaboration with Rwanda Agricultural Board and its annually, nationally held at Historical Museum Nyanza Rukali the Palace of the Late King Mutara III Rudahigwa.
In the earlier days at the national harvest day, communities and families would come together and bring food crops at the time which was mainly sorghum and millet as well as alcohol and present it to the King and give thanks for the good harvest. The day was characterized of dances and jubilations
According to Alphonse Bartson Umuliisa Director of General of Institute of National Museums of Rwanda, Museums said that the National Harvest Day celebrations are a sign of how valuable the Rwandan Culture is to its people.
"The revival and promotion of the Rwandan culture can be witnessed during such celebrations. It was through the promotion of culture that several museums have been established in several parts of country," Umuliisa explains.
Besides the mobile museum, Rwanda has six established museums and the include; Ethnographic Museum in Huye, Rwanda Ancient History Museum Rukari Nyanza, Art Museum Rwesoro Nyanza, Presidential Palace Museum Kanombe, Natural History Museum Nyarugenge Kigali and the Environment Museum which is under construction in Karongi District.
"Tourism based on Culture has been profitable. For example, in 2009-2010, the number of tourists that visited the museums were 87,150 while in 2010 - 2011, the number of tourist that visited the museums were 152, 815 thus showing how the numbers are increasing day by day. This means the more tourist, the more revenue attained. In 2010-2011 we made Rwf103 million while in 2011-2012 we were able to raise revenue worth Rwf160 million," Umuliisa discloses.
He further states that the museums also offer employment opportunities especially to the people in the communities near by.