fbpx

12 Things You Didn’t Know About The Tutsi People

12 Things You Didn’t Know About The Tutsi People

11 of 13

The Tutsi people are often associated with the horrific events of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but the richness and diversity of Tutsi culture is less well known. The Rwandan genocide is known officially in Rwanda as the genocide against the Tutsi. With deep roots in the Great Lakes region, the Tutsi people are a vital component of the African community. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about the Tutsi people.

Sources: Britannica.com, OrvilleJenkins.com, EveryCulture.com, GeneticLiteracyProject.org, ModernHistoryProject2012.Wordpress.com, Prezi.com

Tutsi women with their children in Burundi
Tutsi women with their children in Burundi LazerHorse.org

The Tutsis live primarily in Rwanda and Burundi

In Rwanda and Burundi, the Tutsi people make up one of the largest population groups, second only to the Hutu people. Significant populations also live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania.

A group of Northern Tutsi children Mtholyoke.com
A group of Northern Tutsi children
Mtholyoke.edu

Tutsi groups have different names based on regions

The Northern Tutsi, living primarily in Rwanda, are known as Ruguru, or Banyaruguru, while the Southern Tutsi in Burundi are called Hima. Those that live on the Kivu plateau in the Democratic Republic of Congo are known as Banyamulenge.

Over a decade after the Rwandan Genocide, Deogratias Habyarimana, Hutu, Perpetrator (right), and Cesarie Mukabutera, Tutsi, Survivor (left), stand side by side
Over a decade after the Rwandan Genocide, Deogratias Habyarimana, Hutu, Perpetrator (right), and Cesarie Mukabutera, Tutsi, Survivor (left), stand side by side NYTimes.com

The Tutsi and Hutu peoples were mainly friendly until European colonization

The Tutsi dominated the region beginning in the 14th century, but established friendly relations with the Hutu in feudal relationships owing to their vast cattle herds and warfare knowledge. When the colonial period began in the late 1800s, favorable treatment of one group over another intensified animosities.

Physical features were used to classify the Tutsi by European colonizers EMaze.com
Physical features were used to classify the Tutsi by European colonizers
EMaze.com

The Tutsi were classified as such by European colonizers

When the region was controlled by European colonizers, a classification scheme was developed for census purposes. Those who owned more than 10 cows, or possessed certain physical features – a longer nose or neck, for instance – were classified as Tutsi.

The Tutsi have historically been cattle herders Stedwards.edu
The Tutsi have historically been cattle herders
Stedwards.edu

The Tutsi people have historically been cattle herders

Tutsi culture has long been based around owning and dealing in cattle. Historically, some Tutsi would lend cattle to poorer groups in return for labor, loyalty, and political support, in an effort to keep peace and stability among the different ethnic groups. In the past, there was a special group of herders known as abashumba who took care of the king’s personal cattle.

Cows would only be eaten at special occasions, such as the celebration shown above EveryCulture.com
Cows would only be eaten at special occasions, such as the celebration shown above
EveryCulture.com

Cows are only killed on special occasions

Despite their vast cattle herds, the Tutsi people only kill a cow for food on special occasions. Milk products, bananas, and grains are staples in rural communities especially, and communities are known for brewing their own sorghum beer.

A beautiful example of Tutsi basket weaving MetMuseum.org
A beautiful example of Tutsi basket weaving
MetMuseum.org

Tutsis have a rich artistic history

As cattle herders and traders, Tutsi people traditionally made time for leisure activities, and communities developed impressive skills in basket weaving, pottery, woodworking, metalworking, and jewelry making.

Some physical attributes of the Tutsi people led Europeans to believe they had shared ancestry RobertLindsay.Wordpress.com
Some physical attributes of the Tutsi people led Europeans to believe they had shared ancestry
RobertLindsay.Wordpress.com

Colonizers thought Tutsis showed evidence of Caucasian heritage

So-called atypical physical features found in many Tutsi people were thought by colonizers to be evidence of partial descent from European migrants to the Great Lakes region. Modern-day genetics studies, however, determined that the Tutsi people are mainly from Bantu extraction, though it is unclear whether or not this is from intermarriage and mixing with other Bantu peoples throughout the last 100 years.

Tutsi women in Rwanda Britannica.com
Tutsi women in Rwanda
Britannica.com

The Tutsi speak Rwanda-Rundi, a group of Bantu languages

There are several dialects of Rwanda-Rundi – Kinyarwanda and Kirundi – and both have been standardized and established as the official languages of both Rwanda and Burundi. The Hutu and Twa people, the other main ethnic groups in the two countries, also speak these dialects. Many Tutsi people also speak French, the third official language, and a remnant of the region’s French colonial legacy.

Ritual ceremonies, like this drum ritual dance in Burundi, might be used to call upon ancestral spirits DailyMail.co.uk
Ritual ceremonies, like this drum ritual dance in Burundi, might be used to call upon ancestral spirits
DailyMail.co.uk

Many Tutsis believe they are descendants of the mythical king, Gihanga

Tutsi folklore, like many other Bantu groups, has a heavy emphasis on ancestry. In some communities, children are routinely taught the names and legends of their ancestors at least six generations back. Many believe their families and communities descend from a mythical king named Gihanga, who surfaces in many Tutsi legends.

A Tutsi ritual dance in Rwanda Mtholyoke.edu
A Tutsi ritual dance in Rwanda
Mtholyoke.edu

The traditional creator is believed to be called Imaana

While many Tutsis are Christian, tradition points to Imaana as the traditional creator of the human world. Abazima, or spirits of dead relatives, are able to carry messages to Imaana from their living descendants, according to tradition. These spirits demand the highest respect. Failing that, those that have sought wealth and fertility will instead have bad luck.

The bride and groom with their best man and lady during a Tutsi wedding InsideOtherPlaces.com
The bride and groom with their best man and lady during a Tutsi wedding
InsideOtherPlaces.com

Marriage is the only ritual to mark entry into adulthood

The Tutsi people do not have rituals that mark a girl or boy entering into adulthood. Marriage is thought to be the mark of the transition. The groom’s family pays a bride wealth, making the marriage legal. This is thought to compensate the bride’s family for the loss of her labor. In the past, arranged marriages were common, but are less so today.

[asp_product id="372280"]