Burundi Culture and Traditions

This African State, extended on the raised threshold that separates the Congo basin from that of the Nile, on the edge of the so-called Upper Africa, can be considered a “frontier” country, not only morphologically but also politically, being located between the Republic Democratic Congo, formerly dependent on Belgium, Tanzania (formerly German dominion, then English) and Rwanda. As a country located in Africa according to Collegesanduniversitiesinusa, Burundi owes much of its history, even the most recent, to this position. Since the century XVIII its history was characterized by the coexistence of the Tutsi (prevailing politically) and Hutu ethnic groups (majority in numerical terms). Coexistence, although difficult, was maintained on a level playing field until a few years after independence (proclaimed in 1962): a real genocide was perpetrated when a Tutsi exponent took power, in conjunction with the rise to power of the Hutus in neighboring Rwanda. Since then there have been bloody tribal clashes that have caused hundreds of thousands of victims and waves of refugees to neighboring countries. Furthermore, Burundi is an overpopulated country, whose economy is essentially based on subsistence agriculture and which is at the mercy of fluctuations in the prices of the world market for coffee (the main exported product). Consequently, the social situation is also extremely difficult: malnutrition,


Typical objects of traditional handicraft are the woven baskets, created by Tutsi women; they are made of papyrus fiber, raffia and banana leaves, and are decorated with elaborate designs in natural dyes. The baskets have various uses: to carry the water containers and loads on the head, to stow the crockery with the food to be stored. Other artifacts include objects of leather and iron, almost always decorated with geometric patterns similar to those of the baskets. The blacksmiths, with an art that has been handed down from father to son, model spears for war and hunting. The twa are famous for their pottery, the tradition of which is thousands of years old. Burundi has a unique and ancient musical heritage: families come together to sing traditional songs (imvyino) characterized by a short, rhythmic refrain, which includes improvised verses. The song called indirect is instead performed by a single cantor or a small group. Men perform rhythmic chants (kwishongora), with screams and vocalizations, while typically feminine is a form of sentimental song (bilito). The so-called ‘sighing song’ is part of the typical music of Burundi: it is performed with a low tone of voice, so that the accompaniment of the instruments is heard very clearly. The songs are accompanied by the inanga, an instrument with six or eight strings that vibrate on a hollow box; the idono, a violin with a single string; the ikihusehama, wind instrument similar to a clarinet. Drums are both musical instruments and symbols of power and social status: several men can play the same drum at the same time and alternate solo. Dance is also an integral part of the culture; a particular form of Tutsi dance performed by a group of very skilled and highly trained dancers has become known internationally: they are the Tambouinaires du Burundi, who have also performed in Berlin and New York. The dancers wear leopard-skin headdresses and dresses, staging an elaborate choreography characterized by jumps. The dance has its origins in the ceremonies of the royal court at the time of the Tutsi tribe. The most commonly consumed foods are beans, corn, peas, millet, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas. The cassava root is washed, crushed and filtered, the sorghum is reduced to flour to make porridge or loaves; with porridge you make balls with your hands that dip into the sauce. The diet consists mainly of carbohydrates; vitamins are obtained through fruits and vegetables; few fats and proteins, so much so that meat is only 2% of the diet (fish is eaten only around Lake Tanganyika). As a result there are many and serious cases of malnutrition. so much so that meat is only 2% of the diet (fish is eaten only around Lake Tanganyika). As a result there are many and serious cases of malnutrition. so much so that meat is only 2% of the diet (fish is eaten only around Lake Tanganyika). As a result there are many and serious cases of malnutrition.


Oral literature, in KiRundi language, is very rich, and includes popular and noble genres, recited by professionals. Among the most important we mention: the ivyvugo or amazina, sung or recited in cadence, rich in allusions and metaphors, celebrating warriors or cattle, hunters or hunting dogs; the ibicuba, sung by herdsmen to incite or calm the herds; the ibitico, short stories interspersed with songs; the imvyino, tales rhythmized by the clapping of the hands, with dances; the address, accompanied by a musical instrument. The main themes are historical traditions, the lives of exceptional men or monsters. Writers in French are scarce; the first works are from the 1950s. Noteworthy is the philosophical essay La dialectica dei Burundi (1959) by A. Makarakiza. In 1968, the novel On the footsteps of my father by M. Kayoya (1934-1972), also published in Italy in 1975, appeared. Nsanze, by BF Kirarangaya, M. Manikaraza, G. Mpozagara, E. Mworoha, B. Muzungu. The narrative developed until the eighties, with the novels of Nadine Nyangoma, as well as the theater, in which Kamatari stands out with Soweto (1980).

Burundi Culture

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