DISCOVERY: Welcome and walk with us through Nyamirambo

Thursday June 4 2020

Hair stylist braiding hair at the Nyamirambo Walking Tour.

Hair stylist braiding hair at the Nyamirambo Walking Tour. PHOTO | ANDREW I. KAZIBWE 

JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA
By JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA
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Nyamirambo is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Kigali. It is a centre of trade, culture and history through street art, food and fashion, and has some of Rwanda’s best views.

Nyamirambo Women’s Centre (NWC) is a Rwandan women’s co-operative-turned-NGO launched in 2007 by 18 Rwandese women living in Nyamirambo to address gender-based violence, gender inequality and discrimination.

This has morphed into NWC providing education, vocational training and employment to women to create women’s accessories, children’s clothing and home décor products.

The NWC’s headquarters houses a shop where you can buy the women’s accessories, children’s clothing and home décor and an atelier where the seamstresses make the merchandise.

LANGUAGE LESSON

I was received by Mary, president of the NGO, and my tour guide for the day, Shema, and a fellow tourist, Anna from Germany. Mr Shema, is a gregarious young man born in Congo but raised in Nyamirambo. He is fluent in French, English, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda.

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We kicked off with a traditional snack of chapattis, a Nyamirambo specialty. This was followed by a quick Kinyarwanda language lesson, which was especially fascinating to Anna. When we were certain that she had grasped enough words to make greetings, we saw the women in action and briefly interacted with them as they went about their daily activities.

Impressive to see they empowered themselves and built an atelier, a sewing school, and children’s library. Afterwards, we wove our way through Nyamirambo. Our first stop was a milk bar, a foodie tradition unique to Rwanda, these milk bars are littered across Nyamirambo. Milk bars as the name suggests serve milk and lots of it.

I enjoyed a glass of Ikivuguto (yoghurt) with a mandazi. These are one of many go-to delights enjoyed around Rwanda.

With a filled stomach, our next stop through the narrow streets of Biryogo was a hairdressing salon where we interacted with the coiffeur. Shema schooled us on different traditional Rwandan hairstyles that were the pre-colonial in-thing.

Our next stop, was a family compound deep in the Nyamirambo gutter where we got to pound cassava leaves, a local delicacy known as Isombe. Using a huge pestle and mortar we crushed the cassava leaves to a fine consistency that is used as an ingredient to make a delectable peanut sauce.

A view of the Mosque in Nyamirambo. PHOTO |
A view of the Mosque in Nyamirambo. PHOTO | ANDREW I. KAZIBWE

Later, Shema led us through mosques around Nyamirambo and gave us a historical account of the role they played in the development of Nyamirambo and Kigali. Muslims were the first inhabitants of Nyamirambo at the dawn of the 20th Century after they moved to Kigali to help build the East African railway. They settled in here and became assimilated with the local Rwandans then.

The mosques were also safe havens for the Tutsis during the 1993 Genocide against the Tutsi.

After the brief history of Nyamirambo, Shema guided us to some panoramic sights where we got to savour the majestic views of Kigali from one of the highest points of the city. As we headed back, we stopped at a tailor’s shop where we got to feel and see fabrics styled on the street.

As we headed to our last stop, we passed by a street art project, Kurema Kureba Kwiga, which is a public arts social enterprise that works with professional Rwandan artists to create works of art that transform spaces and places through colour and creativity. The street art prominently adorns most of the walls in Nyamirambo.

The tour concluded with a traditional lunch at Aminatha’s house, Nyamirambo Women’s Centre best cook, where we enjoyed the mouth-watering meal as we learnt about Rwanda’s food tradition. The tour was informative and enhanced my perspective on Nyamirambo and Rwanda. The walking tour is priced at Rwf15,000 ($16) and Rwf3,000 ($3.20) for the traditional lunch.