‘IGITARAMO’ FESTIVAL DEFIES RAINSTORM
The annual community festival ahead of the naming of the new born gorillas, held at Kinigi – a community living near the national park – rang in the final countdown to the last day of an otherwise activity filled week. Hundreds of local people defied a torrential downpour which suddenly moved in across the volcanoes from the Congo DR and lashed the festival ground, but that could not quell the enthusiasm of the participants, all of whom scrambled into the tents where ‘VIP’s happily made space for them sharing the only dry place in sight until the truly biblical rainstorm eventually ended.
No sooner had the rain stopped, inspite of the festival ground still ankle deep under water – it later on drained away – were exhibits returned into the open, chairs wiped down and the fun began in earnest.
Rwanda is known for its moving traditional songs and the graceful dances and community group after community group performed in front of a swelling crowd with ever more thronging into the festival site.
Few seemed to feel the onset of the early evening cold as the crowd often burst into applause and on occasion even formed the background choir for the performers, when popular songs were offered, while the dance groups were regularly ‘stormed’ by both spectators and those from the VIP tents, performing moves of their own to the delight of the crowd. Traditional games, locally called ‘Urushingo’ were also performed, including a mock fight by ‘warriors’ which left them rather soaked as they raced across the pools of water on the festival ground but by no means less enthusiastic.
Most moving were the presentation though from school children who told – duly translated into English by my neighbour in the media section – heartwarming stories of the better life they now enjoy because of the mountain gorillas bringing dozens of visitors to the area every day, giving their parents work and regular income and them new classrooms, new textbooks and therefore a future, while on Ben Bosco Asifiwe, a class 4 pupil, recited a self composed poem ‘Cry of a Gorilla Baby’ to the absolute delight of everyone present.
The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation share revenues with the communities living around the country’s present three national parks and the country’s most visited park ‘Volcanoes’ has as a result of growing global interest and demand risen to a new level of visibility and recognition around the world. Conservation efforts by government and gorilla conservation groups have resulted in a gorilla population growth of over 26 percent in the last ten years, now numbering to almost 500 in the Rwandan part of the Virunga mountain range. There are presently 17 known mountain gorilla groups accounted for in Rwanda. Neighbouring communities now receive 5 percent of the revenue, which at 500 US Dollars per tracking permit, and considering the demand for those, amounts to very substantial direct financial contributions from tourism into the villages along the park boundary.
Meanwhile is the main naming festival going underway this Saturday and updates and reports will be filed in due course.