Foossa Files
Published in

Foossa Files

Learning Rwandan

Ten key words for understanding Rwanda today

Murakaza neza!

I recently returned from my second trip to Rwanda to continue the work that we started last year with UX for Good and the Kigali Genocide Memorial. My Rwanda-based colleagues and the staff of Chez Lando, the hotel where we stayed, greeted us with a hearty “Murakaza neza,” and offered up the very best of Rwandan urugwiro during our stay.

Hospitality, benevolence, kindness, goodwill

As a guest in a foreign country, I always try to return the hospitality of my hosts by picking up some words in the local language and to better understand the history and culture of a place. That impulse inspired me to write this post.

To remember/recall

Every year from April 7-July 4, Rwandans commemorate the 100 day period of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. This commemoration period is referred to as Kwibuka. This year, 2015, marks the 21st Kwibuka since the 1994 genocide.

To free, release, liberate

Rwandans celebrate Kwibohora (Liberation Day) on the 4th of July each year, to commemorate the liberation of the capital, Kigali, from the hands of the génocidaires.


A related term is “Indakemwa” (the Righteous), which refers to Hutu and foreigners who saved the Tutsi in 1994.

Grace Uwamahoro and Bonheur Pacifique

Grace (pictured on the left), was a 10 yr old girl during the Rwandan Genocide. She rescued a baby from the arms of a dying mother and raised the baby as her own daughter. Learn more about Grace’s story here.

Sula (pictured below) was a traditional healer who hid Tutsis in her home and fed them from her garden during the genocide. View Sula’s video testimony here.

Sula Karuhimbi


A performer at the Ubumutu Arts Festival wears an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

You may have heard of “Ubuntu,” the South African Zulu word meaning “humanity towards others.” The related term in Kinyarwanda is “Ubumuntu.” The term is also loosely translated into English as the phrase “I am because you are and you are because I am.” It is a symbol of our shared humanity and our interconnectedness.

While we were in Kigali, we attended the Ubumuntu Arts Festival at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which is dedicated to building peace and understanding of our shared humanity.

Collective Action

According to Rwandapedia, the term “umuganda” means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.”

Modern day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda. Expatriates living in Rwanda are encouraged to take part.

More on Rwandapedia>>

In a similar vein, Global Umuganda is an opportunity for people all around the world to self-organize community service events to improve their own neighborhoods and to stand alongside Rwandan genocide survivors and to remember with them.


The Inzovu Curve is a storytelling and experience design framework that maps a prototypical journey of a person going through the transformative experience of a museum reaching a state of motivation and action.

Our team at UX for Good, in collaboration with our Rwandan colleagues at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, developed the Inzovu Curve framework during our trip to Rwanda last year. We have since prototyped and tested the model with other museums and memorials in New York, Chicago, and Amsterdam.

Inzovu” means “elephant” in Kinyarawanda. We named Inzovu Curve framework after the elephant as its contours resemble the silhouette of an elephant with an upraised trunk.

Little freshwater fish, a Rwandan specialty, and my personal favorite

A lunch featuring sambaza from Lake Kivu

I invented a sambaza po’ boy sandwich one night at dinner and gifted the recipe to Malik, the proprietor of Chap Chap restaurant in Kigali’s bustling Nyamirambo district. Basically, you fry up some sambaza or other whole little fish, and stuff them in a crusty baguette-style roll with some lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, and dress with some spicy mayo.

Thank You!

Murakoze for reading! I look forward to your questions and comments.



Let’s design a better future. Together.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Cofounder @FoossaNYC: I work for and with communities to tell stories, design services, and build new forms of shared value.