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Kings’ Palace Museum: An Exhibition of Two Eras

Kings’ Palace Museum: An Exhibition of Two Eras

In August this year, I published a story highlighting my road trip experiences with a small group of fellow adventurers. We pursued one of the most scenic routes I have ever taken and spared some time along the way to revise the past.

On our way to Rusizi through Nyungwe National Park, we visited the Kings’ Palace Museum and the Ethnographic Museum located in Nyanza and Huye respectively.

At the Kings’ Palace Museum, I saw an exhibition of two distinct eras even before our guided tour was kicked off. The museum encompasses a replica of a Rwandan king’s traditional residence and a colonial-style mansion. The 19th Century royal court model illustrates the setup of a pre-colonial household of the king, whereas the castle constructed in 1932 is a manifestation of the European architectural splendor. The two structures at a glance create a snapshot of two different stages of our history.

We were instructed to take our shoes off before entering the king’s house and his servants’ quarters. It felt like walking into a shrine or any other site of spiritual significance. Even the most notorious noisemakers in the group kept quiet and listened to our guide like a congregation paying attention to a moving sermon.

This part of the tour resuscitated the past and brought history back to life. We examined the king’s lifestyle and his court’s etiquette. We also gathered information on the manipulation of the local power structures and the institution of forces responsible for the abolition of the system of monarchy and the establishment of colonialism.

Unlike his predecessors, King Mutara III Rudahigwa lived in a palace designed under the influence of colonialists. His residence wasn’t the only thing that distinguished him from his father, King Yuhi V Musinga and those who reigned before them. He was also the first Rwandan king to convert into Christianity. His conversion spearheaded a new wave of baptisms and wide-spread Catholicism in the protectorate.

Westernization of the giant king didn’t end there. He had a collection of tailor-made imported suits in his wardrobe. He drove a car and consulted white medical doctors. In 1959, he died mysteriously in the hands of his Belgian doctor in present-day Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.

Finally, we were ushered to the backyard where we gained a cultural perspective of the position long-horned cows (Inyambo) occupied in the kingdom. We were amazed by the discovery of the connection between poetry and livestock.

Before proceeding to Huye, we visited his tomb on a hill known as Mwima, a stone’s throw away from the palace. His wife, Rosalia Gicanda and King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa were also laid to rest on the same hill.

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