Thursday, February 28, 2013


Burundi has a rich heritage in visual arts, namely pottery, wickerwork, sculpture, and painting. It’s characterized by their use of bright colors and geometric shapes. One popular form of painting comes in the form of wall paintings that depict village life. Pottery and concrete block designs (which I think is really cool and want to try to do myself) are a specialty is the Twa peoples. Some of the more common materials used for traditional arts, especially in the rural areas are wood, leather, shell, and horn, and bone.

The Italians and other Europeans in Burundi have brought over many techniques and helped to create art schools in Burundi. Figurative art and mosaics are two examples of this. Plastic art was also very popular at one time.

As far as architecture goes, the rugo is traditional building built using all local materials. Bamboo surrounds the outside which is thought to protect each family member who lives inside of it. Each building has a cone-shaped thatched roof.  The front yard is surrounded by shrubs and is used for daily activities and such. The girls of the family decorate the outside and front of the huts with red soil and kaoline. Every front yard has an igicaniro, used for resisting flies and other stinging insects.  The back yard is where the livestock is kept.

It’s nearly impossible to separate poetry from music in Burundi. They have such a long history of folklore and storytelling and it’s all tied in with music. These stories were a critical part of the Burundian culture because it told the history of their people and stories to teach young people lessons. One style they use when telling these stories is called “whispered singing.”

Some more well-known writers from Burundi are Seraphin Sese, Louis Katamari, Richard Ndayizigamiye (used to be an assistant professor at the University of Burundi in African, African-American and Caribbean literature in the mid-1980s, later received his PhD in comparative literature from Cornell in the early 1990s, and is currently a professor at Brock University in Toronto), and Michel Kakoya (who made a name for himself as a memoirist).

Up next: music and dance

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