Gusimbuka urukiramende is the same as the modern high jump game in which competitors are supposed jump unaided over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without dislodging it.
Historians date that Urukiramende was a game playaed in Rwanda at around 1897-1931 and that it was usually practiced purposely as a welfare sports, an element of gymnastics, physical education which often reflected a concern with maintenance of health lifestyle and sometimes for religious reasons.
According to Jean Damascene Rwasamirera, a Historian and former Lecturer, says, Urukiramende witnessed a sizeable proportion in the central part of the country and that was a kind of the game founded on different purposes and activities.
He says the game was most played at the king’s courts especially during a special event like Umuganura or diplomatic visit. “Most often Gusimbukaurukiramende could diffuse with forms of poetry music and dance and it could bring out an appealing scene and entertaining look,” he says.
He says the game was played to train manly and military tactics to the boys for them to be able to defend the country and attack when they are physically fit.
He added that regardless of the fitness reasons and manly training of the young boys who were ready to join army but the game had also other meaning that were more divine where the high jump could mean the aspiration to reach God in heaven.
He recalls that during those days Urukiramende was also practiced as intore’s rite of passage where the intore would be a man when he could clear his own height through exercising high jumping.
Notable persons who were known for ‘Gusimbuka Urukiramende’
According to Emmanuel Bugingo, Director of Sports, Ministry of Sports and Culture, says, urukiramende was very popular among other games played in the pre-colonial periods as a result the top players who used to play the game were also known to the general public.
One of those players were the Kanyemera wa semuzima, who was very skilled and it is said he could jump horizontal bar of 2.9 meters.
Other best high jumpers were Kanyamuhungu who lived during the reign of the king Musinga in 1931-1959 with other renowned jumpers like Gashiramanga, mwunvaneza, Ngoga and many more others.
He says that Gusimbuka urukiramende was still well known during the late 1970’s among some Rwandan.
Dr. Jacques Nzabonimpa, the Director of Culture, Research, Protection and Promotion Unit at RALC. says, Rwandans were more skilled in other many traditional games which some required logic like the once called Ikibuguzo currently Chess, wrestling the games which is said to be king Rudahigwa’s favorite sports.
He added that archery (Kurasa) was also mostly played by the children where they could make their arrows and bows which they could wield in mock battles.
“Javelin or spear throwing was also very common game among Rwandans where it is said that out of 50 men in Rwanda could take spears as a way of the protection and defend their enemies and during hunting,” he says.
Ezra Mpyisi, a historian and scholar says games like Urukiramende stood a test of time majorly because of the cultural imperialism imposed on the Rwandans with their games related to their culture like the famous football game originating from the England that was quickly adopted by the Rwandans.
Why those games should be revived?
According to Bugingo, the decline of Gusimbuka urukiramende appears to have coincided with the growing adoption of European ways in early 1920’s where Rwandans were convinced that Europeans ways of training the body were superior to those in Rwanda and as a result they adopted the sports like football tennis and others.
He added that despite the responsible ministries the campaign to preserve the once old fashioned games cannot be done by one person but the whole community from leaders to the sportsmen’s.
“If this games would be preserved well they could promote Rwanda as a country to international scene,” he says.
Bugingo adds that some countries were put on the limelight either culturally or economical wise through sporting that’s to say England, China, and more others.
“Government is spearheading the campaign to see that good traditional heritages are not lost towards amidst western influence. Similarly, also in sports we are looking forward to revive traditional games said above. If some cultural art forms like Imigongo are on the come backs, then why not in sports. It’s possible and very soon the games will be played back,” He said.
Meanwhile Rwasamirera says Chinese karate -Taekwondo or British soccer that have fused into global fanatics was not eroded and widespread because of the strength and superiority behind those countries either culturally, economically and politically.
He believes that at these junctures where Rwanda is strong economically and politically it can revive its once popular games like Urukiramende to another level and the results from this can be positive.
The Express News