Unlike many countries in Africa, Rwanda has been a unified state since pre-colonial times with only one ethnic group, the Banyarwanda, and a shared language and cultural heritage. Eleven regular national holidays are observed throughout the year with others occasionally inserted by the government. The week following the Genocide Memorial Day on 7 April is designated as an official week of mourning. The last Saturday of each month is umuganda, a national day of community service during which most normal services close down.
Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings, and storytelling. The most famous traditional dance is Intore, a highly-choreographed routine consisting of three components – the ballet which is performed by women, the dance of heroes which is performed by men, and the drums.
Traditionally music is transmitted orally with styles varying between the social groups. Drums are of great importance; the royal drummers enjoyed high status within the court of the King (Mwami). Drummers usually play together in groups of seven or nine. The country has a growing popular music industry, influenced by East African, Congolese, and American music. The most popular genre is hip hop, with a blend of rap with ragga, R&B, and dance-pop. Popular local artists include The Ben and Meddy, both of whom have won awards.
Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country, although most originated as functional items rather than purely for decoration. Woven baskets and bowls are especially common. Imigongo, a unique cow dung art, is produced in the south east of Rwanda with a history dating back to when the region was part of the independent Gisaka kingdom. The dung is mixed with natural soils of various colors and painted into patterned ridges to form geometric shapes. Other crafts include pottery and wood carving. Traditional housing styles make use of locally-available materials, with circular or rectangular mud homes with grass-thatched roofs the most common. The government has a programme to replace these with more modern materials such as corrugated iron.
Rwanda does not have a long history of written literature, but there is a strong oral tradition ranging from poetry to folk stories. Many of the country’s moral values and details of history have been passed down through the generations. The most famous Rwandan literary figure was Alexis Kagame (1912–1981), who carried out and published research into oral traditions as well as writing his own poetry. A number of films have been produced about the Rwandan Genocide, including the Golden Globe-nominated Hotel Rwanda and Shooting Dogs, which was filmed in Rwanda, and featured survivors as cast members.