Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye on Wednesday led traditional dancers in marking the culmination of his nationwide tour meant to promote the Burundian traditional culture.
During the event where drummers, commonly referred to as Abatibo, were present to make the occasion lively, the president donned on traditional attire with colours of Burundian flag, emphasising on the need to promote and preserve the cultural practices of the Burundian people.
“Safeguarding our culture is a duty incumbent on all patriots,” President Ndayihsimiye said in a tweet.
Burundi’s ‘umurisho w'ingoma’ ritual dance and royal drum was inscribed in the list of intangible cultural heritage by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) when the committee for safeguarding of the intangible culture heritage met in Paris in 2014.
The list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity includes elements that demonstrate the diversity of the heritage and the awareness rising about its importance.
“We are happy because the president came to greet us and played drum with us…He is the first sitting president to do so,” Oscar Nshimirimana, the leader of the drummers in Gishora told The EastAfrican in Gitega.
“We need to love the Burundi drums and support it by teaching the young generation and whoever wants to learn to play it,” said Mr. Nshimirimana.
The Gisghora sanctuary preserves 119 year old drums and is the place where the country’s first drums were born as the place served as a royal palace of Mwezi Gisabo.
The royal drums in Burundi were the pillars of the monarchical power and sacredness, and were used only during special occasions and important places that hosted the country’s great events such as the coronation of a monarch, the funeral of a sovereign and the new agricultural season.
Gishora in Gitega province is located in the eastern part of the country and one of the most famous historical sites of Burundi drummers, the site is and was managed by the local community called the Abatimbo.
Gishora manages sanctuary drums as the Burundi’s cultural tradition, which restores the overall architectural kingdom in the country as the famous drummers present Burundi’s basic culture and heritage found in the center of the country.
Burundi drums have so far turned into leisure or as part of entertainment during official ceremonies and festivals.
All over the country, there are several groups of the ‘abatimbo’, which were formed by the drummers and are being regarded income generating avenues.
In 2019, Gishora received 601 tourists before Covid-19 struck the country. In 2020 alone, 585 tourists visited the place, according to the Burundi Tourism Office.
Gishora (Gitega) marked the last site of tour for president Ndayishimiye’s campaign to promote domestic tourism after travelling to Bujumbura, Rumonge, Bururi, Muramvya, Kirundo and Karusi.
President Ndayishimiye was accompanied by his family during his nationwide tour to inspire and raise awareness on domestic tourism.
Tourism in Burundi before the pandemic contributed more than 20 percent of the foreign exchange earnings.
The country has more than 120 touristic sites.
According to the Burundi Tourism Office, the number of tourists declined significantly since 2020 when cases of Covid-19 were reported in the country. In 2019 before to the pandemic, Burundi received more than 2.6 million tourists but the number declined significantly in 2020 to 553,389, a decrease of almost 80 percent.