Gishora Drum Sanctuary

Gishora Drum sanctuary was established by the last sovereign leader of Burundi known as King Mwami Mweza IV. The king was highly respected in society as he was at the top of the hierarchy of leadership in the pre-colonial Burundi. A legend has it that the sanctuary was formed in celebration of his victory over his counterpart, Chief Ntibirangwa as they were fighting for leadership. This competition was evident in the last quarter of the 19th century and after winning, this prompted the king to establish the Gishora drum sanctuary as a memoir for the victory earned.

The drum sanctuary is run by the local men called Abatimbo. The Abatimbo are the successors of the hereditary Abanyigisaka who were the religious leaders in the region back then in the 19th century and periods prior. The Abatimbo are therefore the successors of the religious institutions throughout the country and take care of the sanctuary. They also had high-ranking positions in society and were entrusted with the authority to run the court system in the ancient Burundian society.

Burundi as a country has many clans within and they are bound by the drumming ceremonies that are conducted throughout different seasons within the year.  Burundi citizens believe that the drumming ceremonies help improve on their unity within their land and this is the main reason why the sanctuary exists because it’s the very ground where the drumming ceremonies are carried out and the fact that it is believed to be a sacred place makes it worth the respect among the elderly and the youngsters.

Location of Gishora Drum Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is nestled on top of the hill, approximately 7 kilometers from the town of Gitega. It is also paramount to highlight that it is just about 220 metres off Gitega – Ngozi road. The sanctuary can be accessed through Bujumbura city where travelers can board private cars to the sanctuary or even opt to use public buses.

Uniqueness of Gishora drum sanctuary.

Gishora Drum Sanctuary has many grounds on which it prides itself as being unique from the rest of the sanctuaries within the region and historical museums.

The fact that the drum sanctuary preserves the ancient artistic drums that were used in the traditional rituals is one of the factors that sets it apart. The royal drums have a distinct physique in that they are big, tall and have attractive artistic designs on their exterior though the powerful sound they produce stands out as a major distinct characteristic. They are locally called Ingoma.

Traditional dances that are performed within the sanctuary by the local citizens continuously make the drum sanctuary unique from the rest of the historical places in Burundi.  The dances are performed by the locals with the aim of uniting all citizens together.  Watching the Burundians do their thing at this sanctuary is a moment one could tell for the rest of their lifetime because of the thrilling adventure it gives.

The drums kept at Gishora Drum sanctuary have distinct features that make them unique from the rest of the drums in that they are made of sacred wood from the trees related to Burundi spirits known as the cordia Africana locally called “Umuvugangoma, Markhania (Umusave)” and many other hardwood species. This therefore makes the drums durable and have been in existence since the 19th century.

The Gishora drum sanctuary is indeed a sacred place and is one of the historical places used to educate citizens about religion, traditional drumming which helps elders to pass on skills to the next generations and keeps the culture in practice and alive. The drumming ceremonies are protected by a specific set of laws that were enacted by the government in 2007 to ensure that it’s peaceful and carried out within the law.

Attractions at Gishora Drum Sanctuary.

There are various attractions at the drum sanctuary incorporating the long drums that are believed to be spiritually attached to the Burundi people.

Burundi indigenous people homesteads that is to say the grass thatched huts further form a section of attraction that tourists really enjoy.  The experience of being in a Hut is so enjoyable and attracts many to the sanctuary especially visitors who have grown up in first world cities with skyscrapers.

The local people are an attraction in their own form due to the way they perform their duties in society and selflessly share their way of life which is such an interesting phenomenon to experience.

Local dressing attire that the local people put on is an attraction too. All this in conjunction with the cultural dances performed at the sanctuary make the place worth a visit.

Activities done at Gishora drum sanctuary.

Cultural dances. These are performed by the Burundi citizens who have been trained by their ancestors on how to perfectly entertain visitors in society and dance to their traditions.

Drumming. Drumming is such an iconic activity in the Society of Burundi.  Local people drum for the visitors and also teach them how to drum their hereditary drums.

Visits to the huts. The well-built huts at the sanctuary are a symbol of power and represent the way of life of the ancient Burundi people. Visitors to the sanctuary get the chance to view how the ancient Burundi people used to live their life in the huts and get insights into the family system of the ancient Burundi society.

Storytelling is another activity that cannot miss mention.  The Burundi natives normally tell stories to the visitors on how they live their life in a similar way with those of their ancestors while at the sanctuary.

Photography and sightseeing can also be enjoyed while at the sanctuary.  The sanctuary sits on top of a hill that therefore gives the breathtaking views of the surroundings of the sanctuary in the towns of Gitega and Bujumbura.

Best time to visit Gishora drum sanctuary.

The drum sanctuary is always active from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day and therefore can be visited all year round. It is however important for visitors to book the entertainers in advance for sensational and uninterrupted performances.