KWITA IZINA: Naming Baby Gorillas

KWITA IZINA: Naming Baby Gorillas

Kwita Izina; Gorilla Naming Ceremony

KWITA IZINA: Naming Baby Gorillas

“A name professes the aspirations parents have for their children, so we determine our own destiny through the names we give our children,” says Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board. “In a way, we are defining our common destiny through Kwita Izina – we are defining where we want to go.”

Rwanda is a country that has been successful when it comes to conservation. The culture of naming children has inspired an annual ceremony held every September for naming the new born gorillas in the Volcanoes National park. Kwita Izina- “to give a name” in the local dialect (Kinyarwanda) is characterized by cultural performances and ancient customs.

The ceremony is always held at Kiningi near Volcanoes National park. It is always a week long program with various activities like conferences and workshops that are highlighted by the naming ceremony of the gorillas. The activity started back in 2005 and the virtual ceremony that was hosted in 2020 was marking 15 years of the ceremony taking place. The ceremony raises awareness and funds to protect the country’s mountain gorillas and the expansion of their habitat.

Guests are invited from all over the world and others buy tickets to attend the ceremony. On the naming day, key guests take the stage which is made using bamboo in form of a Silverback (alpha male in a gorilla group) and assign a gorilla a chosen name. The names are according to the baby’s character traits, behavior, and looks.

Before the ceremony was introduced, rangers and researchers who take care and protect these gorillas would take the role of naming them. This was adapted from the famous primatologist Dian Fossey and her fellow researchers who named gorillas for accurate observation and study of these forest giants. Over the last 15 years about 300 mountain gorillas have been named and this ceremony has made a strategy for Rwanda to preserve its natural heritage and sensitize the mass on the role of conservation and tourism in the country.

As you plan a trip to Rwanda, you can plan and inquire about the ceremony such that you purchase a ticket for the event and attend in person.

Rwanda Gorilla trekking