LEAF International Cultural Exchange in Rwanda and Zambia

REPORT DATE: January 2020 
CULTURE KEEPER: David Kwizera, Rwanda 

“We have lost our culture & have since started adopting other cultures.”  -Senior Chief of Chishi Village 

Overview of the LEAF International Discovery Expedition: 

Zambia’s contemporary culture is a blend of values, norms, material and spiritual traditions of more than  70 ethnically diverse people. Most of the tribes of Zambia moved into the area in a series of migratory  waves a few centuries ago. 

LEAF Global Engagement Director & Rwanda Culture keeper traveled to Zambia for a site visit & cultural  exchange. The trip served as a discovery expedition to uncover the cultural preservation needs in the small  village of Chishi located near Serenje in Northern Zambia. This opportunity was made possible by  phenomenal hosts Brianna Harriman (Build A School) and Clive Chibule (Green Living Movement). Green  Living Movement GLM supports sustainable use of natural resources and community livelihoods in rural  Zambia. GLM Zambia’s work focuses on sustainable agriculture, environmental awareness, capacity  building, empowerment and advocacy. 

Build A School was established is 2015 with a mission to provide quality education to youth who lack  access in the Chishi village. The nearest school to the village is several miles away, so executive director  Brianna created Build A School, which has become one of the greatest resources of the village. The  community of Chishi is outstanding, full of energy, light, love, and dedication. A mighty group of teachers,  youth, parents, & elders make up the village. 

“The trees that are growing are the ones that make a forest. We must invest in the forest  (the youth are the forest)” – Advisor to the Chief

Discovery Expedition at a Glance: 

January 15-19th: 

• We were greeted by the melodic sounds of youth singing a welcome song, “We say welcome, we say  welcome, oh we say welcome to you today. We are happy to see you here.” 

David Kwizera, LEAF Rwanda Culture Keeper, shared traditional & modern dance rhythms of  Rwanda. As the youth surrounded David in curiosity, they anxiously watched every dance move he  created and mimicked the dance to a tee. Based on their excitement, it was immediately apparent  that they were intrigued & interested in knowing more about their own Zambian cultural traditions.  Much of the community was not aware of the cultural foundation of Zambia. The youth displayed 1  Zambian dance, the Chimwemwe (happy) dance, that is more modern and aligned with new  generation fads. 

• The main work industry in the area is farming & agriculture. The ability and need to sustain Maize,  one of the staples & most important crops, is first on the majority’s priority list. This crop is a critical  revenue driver for rural Zambian communities, including Chishi. Maize is the main ingredient for  Nshima, the traditional dish of Zambia.  

• The most widely used musical instrument in Zambia is the drum & kalimba, also known as the  mbira, thumb piano, or African piano. These instruments are often accompanied by horns and  rattles. 

• We did not identify a culture keeper or teaching artist in the community who holds the highest  knowledge of Zambian traditions. However, the unity of the community speaks for itself; They have  collaboratively created a very fruitful garden overlooking a beautiful mountainous backdrop with a  variety of food options, a chicken coop with more than 100 chickens, & have sustained the  community school – educating more than 130 youth on a weekly basis. These initiatives have  enabled the community to bring income & support to their families (by selling eggs from the  chickens & fruits + vegetables from the garden.) 

Future Goals for Build A School: 

o Solar panels that support a water pump & electricity (due to sanitation & health concerns,  water is a critical need for all schools) 

o A computer to help youth learn more skills

o School expansion to support youth in 6th grade + (After 5th grade, youth have to walk many  miles to the nearest school. After walking & climbing a big mountain, youth are tired and  unable to concentrate in school) 

Future Goals for Green Living Movement: 

o Consistent income generation from food & improving the nutrition of youth & adults o Helping to diversify incomes while giving a skill to the young generation  

o Creating a feeding program for the school 

Fun Fact: There are more than 72 languages in Zambia. Many of the words in each language overlap  with Swahili & Kinyarwanda

As Clive stated in laughter, “Zambia is the most confused country in Africa because we have more  than 72 languages. Who else has this many languages?!” 

Memorable Moment: The village showed up & played an important role in starting the process of  painting the school. They worked hard all day despite a short rainstorm delay. The goal is to paint  the school white with decorative green designs. UNITY is the COMM-UNITY! 

Special thanks & LEAF Love to Build A School & Brianna Harriman for  helping to make this dream trip a true reality!!

Mayani is a Maasai boy from longido Arusha. He went to boarding school at 6 years old and lost his Maasai language and tradition. Since joining the LEAF program, he has learned to sing Maasai songs, practiced the ‘jump’ tradition and wear Maasai shukas (traditional clothing). Mayani is extremely happy and is currently teaching other youth the culture.