Umuganura today has  extended its meaning from formally being an agro-based harvest to including achievements from other sectors that contribute to national development such as health, education, ICT, sports, mining, infrastructure, culture, tourism and more.

Normally this event is annually celebrated beginning August 4th but for this year it was extended to August 20th not to coincide with other major events.

This year’s Umuganura – the National Harvest Day has begun yesterday and corresponding events across the country will continue up to August 27th.

Yesterday there was a carnival of  Arts and Culture festival in Kigali as one of the major events that will be characterizing this annual harvest celebration.

Some people complain of having a shortage harvest compared to the past years, but Dr James Vuningoma the executive secretary of   Rwanda Academy of language and Culture (RALC) explained that Umuganura today has widened the meaning from formally being an agro-based harvest to the achievements in other different sectors.

Long ago, The focus of the traditional Umuganura was to give the harvest the blessing of the ancestors. This would happen first at a family level focused on that family’s ancestors, then the community would come together to have a wider celebration.

History of Umuganura: a pivotal event

Historically, Umuganura was a major celebration of the traditional year. Indeed, the high point of the year in pre-colonial Rwanda.

One of the 17 sets of the Ubwiru ritual texts provides detailed guidelines for the celebration of this festival.

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.

In pre-colonial Rwanda, where literacy and writing were inexistent, Umuganura was a dating reference. Examples of events that were dated from Umuganura include several kings who are said to have been enthroned or have deceased so many weeks or month before or after Umuganura; the occupation of Rwanda following the defeat and death of King Ndahiro Cyamatare in 1510 – the “disaster of Rubirwinyundo” – being remembered as “eleven years without Umuganura” ; and the visit of German explorer Richard Kandt on June 14, 1898 being remembered as having taken place two weeks after the court had celebrated Umuganura at the Gitwiko royal residence, while his fellow countryman Von Ramsey’s earlier visit on March 22, 1897 had taken place a few days before the beginning of the fast and abstinence period, Icyunamo, one of the preparatory events to Umuganura.

The First-fruit Ceremony was believed to “infuse the harvest with the blessing of the ancestors” – the particular family’s ancestors as well as the royal ancestors who were concerned with national welfare. That is the reason why Umuganura celebrations also served as an occasion to announce acts and decisions of national significance like King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri (1840 – 1895) introducing a new and last known royal drum, Mpatsibihugu, during the 1844 Umuganura Festival.

Nowadays Different ministries and public institutions in Rwanda partner with the Private Sector Federation to organize and ensure the success of Umuganura. In this events’ framework on the national level, various activities like the exhibition of achievements in every province, evaluation and signing of performance contracts Imihigo and parades of the National Ballet, Drum troupes and Police Fanfare take place.

The Express news Rwanda


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