Interview with Muhashyi Patrice, Healer
"My children are dead, and I do not know the number of my grandchildren.
One of Rwanda's civil wars, known as the Muyaga, took place when I was in Kenya. I was 38 years old.
During the War of 1994, I lost my daughter who was shot. I went home and I found her body lying in the court of my house, killed.
As for hunger, it does not end..."
Centre Ubuntu would like readers to know more about the Bwira people, through their history. As the goal of our organisation is to help the people of Bwira, we would like to lead you further into the depths of Rwanda. We want to put an emphasis on the village, as we do not cover the whole country, but only the village of Bwira.
This history is shared with us by Muhashyi Patrice, a healer born in 1928, is one of the few elders in Bwira.
His wife Elizabeth is a member of the Bwira women's cooperative, ABIHUJE.
The main family in Bwira is called Abasage. The father of Abasage is considered to be a man named Nyabusage. The majority of people Bwira are his descendants.
Abasage refers to the children and grandchildren of Nyabusage.
Moreover, much of Bwira still bears the name "mu Basage" -- literally "the sons of Nyabusage."
Probably just over 250 years ago, Nyabusage arrived in Bwira from Bumbogo (Kigali).
Upon his arrival, he first settled in Gihuku. Then he moved to settle in Kigarama, where he established a plantation of banana varieties known as intokatoki and inyamunyo: banana that is eaten as green vegetables.
Later, he moved from Kigarama to come and build his house where the Gitarama school is actually built.
One day, accompanied by his rams, the bull grazed where Nyabusage went -- to the place where the fountain is today. While the beautiful bull advanced toward juicy and tender grass, he shoved his foot and his leg in a water source. A spring. The cow quenched his thirst, then lay down on the spot.
Since that day, Nyabusage who was known to have the soul of a nomad, decided to settle permanently in Gitarama, near the beautiful spring of water coming out of the rocks and which bears his name..
Nyabusage built his house at the current location of the school.
Another day, Nyabusage went hunting with his dog hunter who has hunted wild animals. The animal ran into a house where a girl was sitting in the hall, weaving a basket, an icyibo.
Surprised, the girl hit the animal. But the animal was too fast and went into the house, and the blow struck the dog hunter, who was running behind. The dog-hunter died on the spot.
The hunter went behind his dog and found him lying on his back, dead. He asked for reparations, and the girl's father offered him a cow..
Nyabusage refused the cow -- and also claimed the hand of the girl who had killed the dog, which was granted.
So he married the girl and made her his wife. She bore him five children, among whom one was a daughter. The first born was named Mizingo, the second was Kananga, the third named Kabeba, the fourth was called Dogo, and the fifth -- the daughter - was named Nyiramariza.
There are four houses Basaga, the son of Nyabusage, and a fifth one, that of Nyiramariza, who gave birth to Mpanju who gave birth to Kababa who himself was born from Muganyari.
The "Waterloo" of Bwira exists: it is a place today known as the ku Kabuga. Formerly, it was called "Mu irasaniro" or the battlefield, for the Basage used to engage in battles against the Abazigaba, another family of a portion of Bwira, today known as Bungwe .
Among those who led the battles of "Mu irasaniro," we talk about Munyambo, Barimenshi Humva's grandfather, Ngendanyi Gitega, the father of Bitege, Senyabugunzu Muhashyi's father (who tells the story), Kibiri Sibomana from the hill facing Bwira; They fought with bows and arrows.
Although the community has converted to Christianity and consider the following practices as paganism, there still may be those who stick to the practices in secret, and behave as Christians publicly in attending church, because the missionaries forbade these practices.
One day the king – an unnamed king from the past, went to Mutara, in eastern Rwanda, and he saw the imandwa (persons who make the kubandwa, or prayer, ceremony) who were making the fire. He went to them asking for fire, to light his pipe.
The imandwa asked him, "If we give you the fire, what will you give us in return? "
The king replied that he would give them whatever they asked. Here's what imandwa asked the king in exchange of fire: “We would like you to take us with you and install us inside your house, and that you pray [with] us."
Thus came the imandwa.
The ceremony began with a kubandwa (a form of prayer) preparation: one first had to consult the diviner. Once the permission of kubandwaobtained, one had to induct Ryangombe and designate Binego. Ryangombe and Binego are the high priest servants of Imana (God).
Then they could kubandwa, in respect with the traditions:
They put lime on the body.
They wore the skins of squirrels, sheep and "imondo."
After dinner dance followed, new initiates were baptized and received their baptismal name 'the name of imandwa."
"The purpose of kubandwa was to ward off evil spirits and to sick for blessings, mainly peace and prosperity."
To make a donation to his ancestors is a ceremony that was done at night, in order to ask to the spirits a healthy life and any sorts of blessings.
The food used in the ceremony included banana wine, beans, and sorghum dough. Depending on the severity of the situation or the intensity you wanted to put in the application, you could go shoot a cow for meat to be added in the ceremony that would appease the spirits and allow their favours.
This is a ceremony that was done at night in the dark, without a witness. As a result, people who did this practice were treated as poisoners, dangerous people that had to be wary.
But in reality, the practitioners were not bad, but it was a special form of Guterekera. The practice was to run two baskets while taking a small earthen pot in which there were bones burning in a small fire. These baskets were used to store the fire while hiding it. They were seen on the hill now and then when night came, with little fire kindled in the dark within a few seconds and seemed to move through the fields.
Poison. Most of the antidotes, are the plants that cause nausea and expulsion of the poison through the vomiting. People poisoned by jealousy and other hate.
I was born in 1928, and the poisoners already existed. These are foreigners who have shown us the antidotes. Personally, my father is the one who showed me the herbal I use in my profession. With regard to the poison, that's all that's not good to eat.
Mediums. The major mediums are in mu Gitoki behind the mountain of Ndiza in the Central Province. When they see you, they predict things about you in the near future, and everything they predict is known to happen.
In mu Basage”, there is no kuragura. Previously, there was: Nyiranyundo, Rufiri’s wife, Nyirabarigira -- the mother of Fidel, and Ntibangurubwa. All three are women who came from other houses to get married to the son of Nyabusage.
Prohibited. It was forbidden to marry a girl of one’s own family for example. Nowadays, it is no longer forbidden.
We say Kiliziya yakuye Kiraz, or “the church has prohibited the practices”; since the arrival of the Catholic Church, the traditional practices fell into oblivion.
They knew and recognized a God creator, they lived this belief every day. For them the mystery of faith was with them all the time.
They celebrated they faith through the practice of Kubandwa. They planted a banana tree and saw it grow, and bear fruit and small trees. The entire mystery of the faith in their experience was before their eyes, all the time. The god they prayed to used to listen to them, given the evidence, they believed.
Kubandwa was a demonstration of their faith and how to communicate with God.
In the ceremony of kubandwa, they were surrounded by the whole family, they prepared banana wine in large quantities for the ceremony, they invited other families. He who did not believe in God did not take part in the ceremony of kubandwa.
Kubandwa was a form of prayer, a time dedicated to the connection with God.
The Abasage cultivated barley, beans, sorghum, bananas, sweet potatoes, and taro.
Squash and potatoes -- growing alone in huge quantities, were thrown into Kibilira river: the river which takes its source in mu Kabere, on the coast to Munyampundu home -- the place known as mu Rukombe.
From there Kibilira meeting the other arm of the river known as the Rutenga -- close to the Munyampundu home.
Remember that Nyabusage is the one who brought bananas in Gitarama. Before he arrived, Gitarama was the forest.
Gitarama is known nowadays as Bwira. Indeed, places have changed names these last ten years. The area known as Bwira was, until very recently, called Gitarama.
Muhashyi remembers that this school was held by a teacher named Petero Ruturi. He left school to become a judge (change of occupation) to Hindiro under the First Republic (that is between 1959 and 1973).
Petero Ruturi replaced another teacher named Sitefano.
"I did not know Sitefano. The school of my childhood was a single building, a single classroom. It was said that at the beginning, the building which served as a school was covered with straw. I can not tell what time it was built, but when I grew up, I saw the school covered with tiles. This was the time of the teacher who replaced Sitefano Petero. "
When he died, Nyabusage was buried at his home, meaning the place where the Gitarama school is built.
"The furthest I went from Bwira is in Uganda, and in Nairobi, Kenya in 1979. I do not know World War II. What I saw was a plane that came the first time. We saw it coming from behind the mountain of Ndiza. It was making a lot of noise, it was impressive and frightening. In a very short time it disappeared from sight. People said it was going to land at Goma, in Congo.
My father, Senyabugunzu, had six children. When he died, he had three women.
As for me, I had two women I married when i was eighteen.
My children are dead, and I do not know the number of my grandchildren.
One of Rwanda's civil wars, known as the Muyaga, took place when I was in Kenya. I was 38 years old.
During the War of 1994, I lost my daughter who was shot.
I went home and I found her body lying in the court of my house, killed.
As for hunger, it does not end.
I do not read in the future. To date, December 8, 2011, everything is good. And I see a bright future."
"My contribution is love.
I personally practiced kubandwa in order to drive out evil spirits.
I converted to Christianity during the war, in March 1997. I even wrote that date on my house. Prayer has been helpful for me. I met people who helped me to know God. I only drank a little beer and it earned me a bad grade, so that I could not pass exams. I had forgotten a lot of things learned and I mixed everything. Community-based church told me to follow the teachings again.
There are others who came to drink with me and had to take classes for two months. But me, I am too od to go to the parish, Muhororo, for these good teachings.
What I just told you, I learned by listening to older people talk.
The Abasage are a family which is also found in mu Bumbogo , in mu Bubereruka mu, at ku Rushashi , at "mu Bwiza, at Kabuhanga after mu Rutsiro these are from Bwira to Kageyo. All those in the West came from Gitarama, Bwira now.”
These villages mentioned above are crossing from the East to the West of Rwanda. Some of them are miles away from Bwira.
Interviewed by the Association Ubuntu. All rights reserved. Copyright 2011.