|Rwandans produce many beautiful crafts. Women
weave baskets and mats from banana leaves, grasses and papyrus fibres.
Geometrical designs, usually in black, white and red, are often woven into
these objects. It is considered a sign of wealth and status to own many
decorated baskets and mats. In addition to these objects, women make practical
items from banana leaves, such as pot holders and the coils that they put
on their heads to support burdens. Men do woodcarving and make drums, pipes
for smoking, stools, knife handles, bowls and jugs.
Many traditional musical instruments are played in Rwanda. Stringed instruments such as the lulunga (an eight-stringed instrument similar to a harp) accompany singing and dancing. The mbira or kalimba is a thumb-piano. Flutes are made from reeds. Drums are very important in Rwandan music and drummers often play in groups of seven to nine. The drums are of different sizes and each produces a distinct tone. Together, the drummers produce a complex rhythm.
Rwanda also has a rich tradition of stories and folklore. Storytelling and public speaking are much admired and good storytellers are honoured. Many stories have a message and were once used to teach values such as cooperation or generosity. Other stories tell of the exploits of heroes or the suffering caused by evil spirits.
Very little literature has been written in Kinyarwanda, but a number of authors have written books in French. Alexis Kagame (1912-81) was a clergyman, historian, ethnologist and philosopher who researched the oral history of Rwanda and published several volumes of poetry and Rwandan mythology. J. Saverio Naigiziki wrote an autobiography, Escapade rwandaise (Rwandan Adventure) and a novel, L'Optimiste (The Optimist), about the marriage of a Hutu man and a Tutsi woman. Yollande Mukagasana, a Rwandan writer who survived the genocide and now lives in Europe, has written two books, La mort ne veut pas de moi (Death Doesn't Want Me) and N'aie pas peur de savoir (Don't Be Afraid to Know), about her experiences.