KWITA IZINA ‘GORILLA NAMING’ SETS STAGE FOR MORE CONSERVATION EFFORTS
(Thousands of Musanze and Cyaniga residents came to witness the event and crammed the festival grounds)
The Prime Minister of Rwanda, the Rt. Hon. Bernard Makuza, was the guest of honour at this year’s 7th gorilla naming festival ‘Kwita Izina’ held on Saturday at Kinigi / Musanze and named in fact the first of 22 gorilla babies himself, before Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB ‘MC’d’ the function through the programme, naming interspersed with performances of songs, music and traditional dances by some of Rwanda’s finestcultural troops.
Drummers performed their ‘staccatos’ before each major programme item and had many of the spectators in the VIP tent clapping along the tunes and tapping their feet in the same rhythm.
The ‘namers’ this year again came from across the world, with greater emphasis though on ‘local namers’ from Uganda and the wider region, aimed to create more ownership in Rwanda and Eastern Africa of the gorillas and using the often very prominent name givers as ambassadors for conservation in their professional and social circles, but also increase the fundraising potential in the region, where large corporate companies can now ‘name their gorilla’ in exchange for contributions towards Rwanda’s conservation efforts, a fair deal considering the enormous cost of maintaining the park and looking after the nearly 500 mountain gorillas now found in the ‘Volcanoes National Park’.
Each and everyone of the ‘namers’ was dressed in a traditional Rwandan outfit, put on them in the nearby ‘cultural village’ which shows visitors to the site the homesteads as they were once common sight before making way for brick and mortar houses with mabati roofs, in a way a sign of progress but also a sadly felt loss of cultural identity, now however vigorously revived by the National Institute of Museums of Rwanda which is adding the ‘culture component’ to the local tourism circuits, as recently reported here.
The large local crowd, estimated to be as many as 7.000+ strong, took particular pleasure in the cultural performances which were accompanied with traditional songs and often the local spectators became the background choir for the on stage performance, testimony how much they enjoyed the day and were part and parcel of the celebrations and how far Kwita Izina has come since 2005 when the first edition was staged and President Paul Kagame named the first gorilla baby during that function.
The Prime Minister in his formal address emphasized Rwanda’s commitment to conservation as a matter of high priority and in fact mentioned and reiterated government’s plans to replant wider tracts of land with trees, so as to link the various forests from Nyungwe to the shores of Lake Kivu and create migration corridors for game while enhancing the water towers of the nation.
Kwita Izina has become the ‘pride of the nation’ as one RDB staffer put it and it is indeed often a point of equal admiration as well as a little envy by other East African countries, that ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ has managed to capture the world’s attention year after year by celebrating conservation and their unique gorilla tourism products, and have in the process managed to create ownership through participation and reward programmes from tourism incomes with and for the local communities, which often elsewhere go ‘empty handed’ and struggle to embrace wildlife based tourism which in their own context gives them little of nothing. Revenue share schemes, mandated by law in Uganda and now trialed elsewhere are beginning to make an impact though, often inspired by Rwanda’s example and the success story of its tourism industry which rose over the past decade to the top of the country’s economic performance list and has governments’ fullest support.
This report concludes the ‘live reporting’ from Kinigi’s Kwita Izina festival ground and until June 2012 for the 8th edition, dates for which will be reported here as soon as the announcements are made.