Enclosures of the kings

Thanks so much to WordPress.com for including this post on its “Freshly Pressed” page this week! New readers: please also click here to see some newer posts.

Yesterday, we visited the Rukali Palace Museum in the town of Nyanza, a couple of hours south of Kigali.

The opening of the enclosure around the house of the keeper of the king's milk.

The museum grounds hold a reconstruction of the palace of Mwami (King) Musinga Yuhi V (a few miles from its original location), as well as the actual Western-style palace built for his successor, Mwami Rudahigwa Mutara III, in 1932.

The reconstructed palace is currently undergoing a 5-year refurbishment.

Musinga lived in a palace like this from 1899 until his death in 1931.

An old photograph of the actual court of Mwami Musinga.

Traditional building and weaving techniques were used to make the structures of grass, reed, and bamboo. The work is very fine.

House of the keeper of the king's milk.

The entrance to the house of the keeper of the king's beer.

The inside partition is woven in such a way that an inhabitant could see out, but someone outside could not see in.

The ceiling.

A cow pen is part of the reconstruction. Cows were very important in Rwandan royal culture, and each of the king’s cows had a personal poem that was chanted or sung to call it out. They might also be decorated like this one.

A Rwandan cow wearing decoration at the reconstructed palace. Her keeper is chanting her own poem.

The pretty little calves are sleek as seals.

The modern palace (used from 1932 to 1959) is decorated inside and out in geometric motifs. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take pictures inside.

The actual palace of Mwami Rudahigwa Mutara III, who lived here from 1932 until his death in 1959.

The front porch.

Inside, the home contains some original furniture, as well as historical photographs and maps.

Queen Rosalie and the king in the 1950s. The widowed queen was murdered in the 1994 genocide.

The courtyard garden is planted in hedges laid out in patterns like those traditionally used in baskets, mats, and room partitions.

The courtyard garden behind the more modern palace.

Room partitions of the reconstructed palace with traditional geometric patterns.

More about traditional Rwandan homes here.


Filed under African gardens, culture and history, garden design, nature, plants, Rwanda life, Rwandan gardens, travel

61 responses to “Enclosures of the kings

  1. Absolutely STUNNING photos — what an amazing snapshot of an incredible part of the world. :)

  2. Fantastic hand made structures in these pictures and not a sheet of plasterboard in sight….

  3. Rukali Palace Museum looks like an really interesting place to visit. Thanks for showing us a glimpse of this place through these beautiful photographs and your words. Great post. :)

  4. The fireplace tiled in the Tumbling Blocks pattern used in quilting, and I’ve knitted it.

  5. Professor Finch

    Oh wow! I absolutely love this! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Amazing building skills and use of materials. The fireplace quilting pattern seriously does my vision a nasty and is quite wonderful. Thanks for sharing these

  7. svenddottir

    Thanks for not only showing the traditional/precolonial palace and gardens, but also the modern palace and garden in Rwanda. It’s good to make modern African capitals more visible, since many people have such out-dated ideas about the continent, as you know. But this also made me happy as a Foreign Service brat whose father spent many years on the Central Africa bureau in the 1990s.
    Lovely blog!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing such an impressive and historical perspective of Rwanda! Well deserved FP!!!!

  9. rococonnor

    Brilliant, vibrant patterns and structures. Thank you for posting these pictures. I lived in Africa for 25 years, from early childhood, and can never think of my time there as anything but rich in experience, colour, life, energy and lots of creativity. More of this and these types of pictures of Africa, please!

  10. Thanks for sharing this intricate beauty.

  11. Constance V. Walden

    Very interesting history and buildings. Thanks for sharing. Connie

  12. You are having a great adventure, and thank you for making us feel like we are along for the fun :-) I love the finesse with which the ‘huts’ are woven, and it is fascinating to see the old palace.

  13. Debra Colby-Conklin

    I love when travellers post photos of their adventures. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Message in a Bottle Hunter

    Very cool!

  15. Very interesting and beautiful. I wonder how the cows feel about being decorated? Either way I’m sure their life is happier than most in the U.S.A.

  16. A very nice post

    And you choose all the pictures aptly, fitting the post

    good work!

  17. I’ve read a couple books about the Rwandan and Burundi genocides. It was very cool to see your well-done pictures of one of these places. Thanks. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  18. What an interesting blog! :D

  19. Excellent (green) craftsmanship, preserve the skill by passing it onto your young ones.

  20. These photos? They are absolutely gorgeous.

  21. I like the garden! The hedges was such a cool idea. And the weaving is amazing!

    • Dear all,
      Thanks for all your comments (and to WordPress for featuring this post on their Freshly Pressed page)! For more information on the court of Mwami Musinga, see the book, Defeat is the Only Bad News, by Alison L. Des Forges (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011). – Cindy

  22. Thanks for showing us something new, something educational, and something wonderful. Everything about this was very cool. The craftmanship and talent that went into the building of the original palace is truely amazing. Thanks too for the history, the story itself. I’m going to get the book, “Defeat is the Only Bad News” Peace be with you. Keep Writing, Keep Blogging.

  23. wow. stunning photos – fascinating subject – looking fwd to more

  24. Intriguing post and photos!! . . . Congrats on being “Freshly Pressed”!!

  25. Aah!! A lovely place.

    Would be lovely to stay in such a place for a holiday eh!

  26. Queenie

    Entertaining and educational at the same time. Wonderful journey, and great photos. It’s got it all.

  27. WOW!

    How much did the trip cost to get the pictures? And yes, include the price of the camera.



  28. Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:
    One of the adventures I love about blogging is reading other blogs. I doubt that I will ever go to Rwanda. So, I doubt I will personally visit the Kings’ quarters. But, I got to experience this through a fellow blogger’s eyes ….

    And that experience was worth my time (& is worth your time).


  29. Lula (onbotanicalphotography.blogspot.com)

    Great post, very informative and good use of archival material.

  30. Amazing detail… Beautiful!! Thank you.

  31. I love the palace architecture. Thanks!

  32. Very interesting! I just spent half an hour looking at a friend’s slides show of her visit to Ghana on behalf of Habitats for Humanity, and it was fascinating. Granted, it is a different country in Africa, but interesting to get to look at an African king’s dwelling. Great post!

  33. elizabethweaver

    The beauty of this construction is inspiring. Thank you.

  34. LM

    Reblogged this on letstalkaboutpatrimonio and commented:
    Algo muito interessante sobre museus e património em África, Rwanda:

  35. The old buildings are magnificent. The modern palace looks rather like an Deco office block.

  36. I found this very interesting, indeed.

  37. Cultural differences make for cool posts sometimes, right?

  38. Everything looks beautiful. But these traditional geometric patterns are amazing, caught my eye right away.

  39. Great photos. Love the texture – really well done.

  40. Jack Pinnell

    Amazing how much work went in to each home, great pictures!

  41. Your photography is simply breathtaking. There’s so much emotional appeal! Everything is perfect: the angles, the lighting, the different viewpoints… It’d be my dream to be as good as you!!

  42. Wow! Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  43. joahnadiyosa

    Wow! Such a breather! The tour looked very interesting! And the photos are just superb! :)

  44. kkb

    exquisite reed work!

  45. Very beautiful. I am a WordPress photographer. This reminds me of my architecture gallery! Great job

  46. Pingback: Traditional village homes | enclos*ure

  47. Will have to put this place on my “must visit” list which is growing alarmingly fast, not sure how I am going to find the money and time to visit them all !

  48. Dear all,

    Thanks for all your comments! A few other notes about the reconstructed traditional palace:

    The keeper of the king’s milk was always a woman, a virgin, who never left her little compound. How long she remained a keeper was up to the king’s mother. It was the same with the keeper of the king’s beer, but a man took the position. Beer was made from either bananas, honey, or sorghum. It was drunk from a clay pot through a straw.

    The homes were lit by a brazier in the middle area. The smoke could only go out the front door, so it must have been smoky inside. That was also the only light. Boys of the house slept near the front door, the girls slept in the furthest back area. The king slept in a large raised bed covered by barkcloth. He entered the bed from a decorated entry off the center area of the house. The queen entered the bed from an opening off the back area of the house.
    – Cindy

  49. Pingback: To do: « Let's Talk about… Património

  50. Wonderful post, congratulations!

  51. Pingback: Museum garden in Lyon | enclos*ure

  52. Pingback: Sweet indeed | enclos*ure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s