Discover Kinyarawanda

Kinyarwanda is spoken by roughly 10 million people primarily in Rwanda.. It is a Bantu language and part of the Niger-Congo language family of languages. Kinyarwanda is the official language of Rwanda. It mutually intelligible with Burundi’s Kirundi language.

Main Communities

Kigali, Butare, and Gitarama

Common names and their meanings

  • Mugisha - Luck
  • Kwizera - Faith
  • Mesa - Beautiful 
  • Ntwali- Hero
  • Shema - Pride
  • Iranzi- God knows me

Staple Food

Ikinyiga is a Rwandan delicacy made from peanuts. The texture varies from one chef to another and can range from a porridge to a soup. Ikinyiga is often served with a base like ugali.

Culture and Traditions

Umuganura Festival – The word Umuganura means “first fruits” in Kinyarwanda. The festival of harvest dates back to ancient times and is a time for the community to give thanks for the bountiful harvest. During Umuganura, friends and families get together to share a meal and to make an offering of the first fruits of the harvest to their ancestors. This act is said to bring blessings and ensure the bounty of future harvests.

Umuganda – The word Umuganda means “coming together for a common purpose.” Umuganda is a special community service celebration that takes place on the last Saturday of every month in Rwanda. During Umuganda, communities come together to work on projects that benefit entire neighbourhoods. Projects can include: repairing homes, cleaning the streets, or planting flowers in order to improve neighbourhoods. Umuganda fosters a sense of pride and community among the Kinyarwanda.

Notable figures:

Agathe Uwilingiyimana - Politician. She was the first female Prime Minister of Rwanda, serving from 1993 until her assassination in 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide. Uwilingiyimana is best known for her efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Rwanda and her advocacy for women's rights and education.

Jean de Dieu Nkundabera - Ahelete.  He competes in paralympic athletics. In 2004, Nkundabera became the first and only Rwandan to win an Olympic medal. He took the bronze in the T46 men's 800 metre race. Nkundabera  also represented Rwanda at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing.

Immaculée Ilibagiza - Author. A survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, she is best known for her memoir "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust." Ilibagiza’s story of survival, forgiveness, and spiritual resilience has garnered international acclaim and serves as a testament to the human capacity for healing and reconciliation. In 2007, she received the  Mahatma Gandhi Reconciliation and Peace Award.