Kwita Izina: Rwanda’s 5th Annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony

Rwanda celebrated its 5th annual Kwita Izina–or Gorilla Naming ceremony–this past week in June. The high point of the celebration was the christening of 18 new mountain gorilla babies born in Volcanoes National Park over the previous 12 months. However, Kwita Izina also included multiple other events in the preceding days including a cross-country cycling tour, a conservation conference in Kigali, and an “Igitaramo” party for the community.

The official ceremony took place this year on June 20, featuring Guest of Honor Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza and several other notable guests including famed American zoo keeper Jack Hanna and South African musician Chris Chameleon. Also in attendance were members of the Rwandan government and private sector, UN representatives, conservationists from around the world, and thousands of local and international supporters.

The night before the naming ceremony, the park authority (ORTPN) hosts “Igitaramo.” This party for park staffers and community members showcases traditional dancing, singing, and athletics.

Intore dancers perform for local communities, district leaders, and international visitors. Mount Sabyinyo, a volcano within Rwanda’s Virunga Massiff, loams in the background.

Art of Conservation students sing “Mu Birunga” or “In Virunga,” as it translates in English. This song and dance performance celebrates Rwanda’s greatest natural resource, the mountain gorilla, and the interconnections between the natural world and people. (Please click here for more on AoC’s preparations for Kwita Izina)

Grilled corn on the cob and soft drinks were enjoyed by many along with dancing.

Kwita Izina, the 5th Annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

Beginning as early at 7:00 am, spectators, honored guests, performers, and the media began to gather at Kinigi’s Cultural Village, the site of Kwita Izina.

Performers dressed as mountain gorillas relax and take in the day’s festivities while human primates behind them take in the sights.

Chris Chameleon, a musician from South Africa who was given the honor of naming one of the baby gorillas, sang a song in his native tongue, Afrikaans.

With the entertainment program shortened, AoC students and other local community groups did not perform on stage, but did enjoy the ceremony anyway.

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