Kwita Izina

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The timeless Rwandan ceremony kwita izina (to give a name) is part of the celebration of the birth of a new child in a family. This name is selected by family members and is announced during a ceremony.  For three decades this same ceremony has been performed for Rwanda's newly born mountain gorillas by rangers, researchers and those charged with the safekeeping of these unique animals. In 2005 this Gorilla Naming Ceremony became a public ceremony hosted by then ORTPN. In 2007 the Ceremony was officially named Kwita Izina and has become an exciting part of Rwanda's tourism and conservation calendar. The event is a celebration of Rwanda's conservation efforts in protecting the endangered mountains gorillas.

The gorilla naming ceremony is a big event in Rwanda, with thousands of people attending and entertainment by traditional Intore dancers, and often other acts of an international flavor.

According to the Kwita Izina website Jack Hanna, the world-renowned zookeeper, upon attending a few years ago, called the event "the most emotional experience in my 60 years."

 Last year's Kwita Izina coincided with World Environment Day--an event similar to Earth Day that takes place in a different city with a different theme each year--that was hosted by Kigali. Thus, many international figures were in attendance,BB including representatives from the U.S., Uganda, the DRC, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) along with the recently appointed UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle (of "Hotel Rwanda" fame).



Famous actor Don Cheadle announced the name of one of the baby gorillas as chosen by people around the world who voted on-line (using a variety of methods that included Twitter!) or via text message: "Zoya," meaning "life" and/or "light" in several global languages from Greek to Hindi to Farsi. Similarly, the name of another of the baby gorillas was "WakaWaka," which is Swahili for "to light up."

Other names included: Agashya, Agatako, Gasore (which means "young man"), Icyamamare, Imbuto, Inshuti (which means "friend"), Isabukuru (named by the Ugandan representative and meaning "anniversary"), Murakaza (which means "welcome"), Ntambara, Teta, Ubuhamya (named by the U.S. representative and meaning "testimony"), and Umurage (named by UNEP and meaning "legacy").


Also attending last year's events was President Paul Kagame, who had not attended since 2007. I'd say it was a smart move because he was receiving the Global Environment Award in recognition of Rwanda's progress in the area of environmental policy (The country has banned plastic bags and the environment is featured prominently in the government's "Vision 2020" development plan--in his remarks, Cheadle told the crowd, "You would think that a superpower like the United States or some of the countries in Europe would be leading in this area, and we're trailing, in some regards, behind Rwanda.")


This year's Kwita Izina was held on 18th June 2011 under the theme "Community development for sustained conservation" and and  22 baby gorillas  were given new  names in a colourful event at Musanze.

Visit Rwanda and witness yourself this stunning ceremony.

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