Visited Iby' Iwacu, the ex-poachers village near PNV, today. What a welcome! The star attraction is the 67-year-old pygmy who dances, sings and raps welcoming songs with great gusto throughout the entire visit.
The village land was given to the poachers so that they could make a living by alternative means. There are 1000 inhabitants, and their main occupation is agriculture –planting food crops such as potatoes and tree tomatoes in the rich volcanic earth - and shaping lava blocks into valuable building stone. But they also have a fantastic hour-long cultural show for visitors, brilliantly hosted by Emmanuel.
There is a medicine man who, without any mumbo-jumbo, shows you the plants and preparations used to heal a variety of ailments – camphor for chest infections, aloe vera and honey for skin complaints, a blend of five herbs as a muscle relaxant, something to help you get pregnant, and of course herbal Viagra.
They’ve built a replica of the old royal palace, and their skill is in persuading you to participate. They managed to dress me up as the king and took me through the various rituals – explaining the true significance of the ‘king-size’ bed, which, on occasion, had to accommodate many maidens.
They got the men to learn to shoot arrows, the women to grind sorghum, all our achievements punctuated by cries of guma guma guma
(means ‘bravo’ evidently) to celebrate our success at these endeavours. The visit culminated with an impressive display of traditional ‘intore’ dancing. Amazingly, they even persuaded the guests to join them.
I’ve been to a few cultural villages, and they can be excruciatingly embarrassing or feel phoney. This was a pure delight, and felt ‘authentic’ in the sense that they clearly loved doing it, were pleased to see us and were having fun. It was done with a sense of humour – my companion, Kath, said she laughed so much her sides ached - and we were made to feel part of that wonderful Rwandan community.