7 Practical Things about Rwanda’s Gorilla Naming Ceremony

Kwita Izina, the gorilla naming ceremony organised by Rwanda every year since 2005, has been attracting growing interest from abroad. What is it and how does the biggest conservation event of the Gorilla Highlands region actually look like?

1. You are not going to see any real gorillas at Kwita Izina

It’s better we deal with this major misconception first. No, the Rwanda Development Board is not going to torture gorilla babies by bringing them to the event. Instead you will get a photo list of little gorillas born that year. There will be dashes for names, and you can entertain yourself by making them up, however, the real thing is going to be done from the stage, by important personalities from around the globe.

2. It always happens at the same place at (almost) the same time

You can plan for this. The setting is Kinigi, the headquarters of Volcanoes National Park not far from Musanze Town, and it happens the first Friday of September, beginning in the morning.

3. It is a free event with online registration

You will have to apply for your free ticket to Kwita Izina online, and that will be it. The 2019 event will take place on 6 September.

4. This is massive, arrive early

It is an excellent idea to be at the site before 8am. The best parking places and the best seats will still be available for you to grab. The entertainment begins early, you can meet many lovely people and thoroughly enjoy the informal side of Kwita Izina. Tens of thousands of people will join you later.

5. There are a number of speeches

In addition to famous singers and performers and top traditional dancing groups, there are of course a couple of people who are expected to say something. If you are lucky, you will hear President Kagame himself, and each of the gorilla namers will explain her or his choice. It will help your focus if you can actually see the speakers in real life, instead of following the action on big screens – see Practical Thing #4!

6. It takes hours but there is shade and there are drinks

Kwita Izina is a multi-hour event. You will be seated in big tents and there will be a bar.

7. Gorilla names are not a gimmick

Finally, gorilla names are actually a practical thing. After decades of conservation efforts, the number of mountain gorillas on this planet is bigger than 1,000 at last — but that still calls for extreme attention to each and every individual! For example, there are specialised gorilla doctors taking care of their health… Professionals who work with gorillas use noseprints (peculiar wrinkles above nostrils) to know who is who.

text and video: Isabelle Masozera and Miha Logar; featured image: Marcus Westberg