Hutu Culture

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by paigeruss
Last updated 7 years ago

Social Studies
World Culture

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Hutu Culture

-Population: About 10 million-A right of passage that is important to the Hutus is that when a baby is born, the mother and child stay in the house alone for 7 days. On the 7th day a naming ceremony is held.-Marriages are only legal when the man's family pays the bride wealth to her and her family.-Death is followed by rituals, prayers, and speeches. Close family members do not work in the fields during the period of mourning.-In the past, they wore skirts of cloth made of tree bark and shirts made out of animal skin. They now mostly wear Western-style clothing, except for festivals and traditional celebrations. -Only about half the people who live in Rwanda and Burundi can write in their native language.-Their staple foods are beans, corn, millet, sorghum, sweet potatoes, and cassava.-A game called igisoro is popular. In this game, beans are placed in holes in a wooden board, and opponents try to capture them.-Soccer is the major sport played by Hutus.-Traditional Hutu houses are huts shaped like beehives made from wood, reeds, and straw.

Social Organization

Historically, there has been a class and caste division between the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. Each group had a specific role, and there was a status division between the three tribes. Since independence, the association between ethnic identity and class has been broken down. The Hutu took control of the government, so those with power were able to use their positions to gain cattle and land, which are trditional signs of wealth. However, most Hutu remain poor. Twa have remained at the bottom of the social hierarchy with almost no political power. Historically, social status was also symbolized through the possession of cattle. Now, status is reflected through a high degree of education and the possession of consumer goods such as cars.


They speak the Central Bantu language. It's called Kinyarwanda in Rwanda and Kirundi in Burundi. Many also speak French and Swahili, especially near the Tanzanian border and in the cities. This is useful for trade. The Tutsi and Twa people also speak the same language, which makes it easy for the tribes to communicate.





Customs and Traditions


Most Hutu people are Christians. Many keep some of their ancient beliefs. Many beleive in the Hutu god, Imaana. They also beleive in abazima which are the spirits of ancestors. They beleive that these ancestors could become angry if not offered gifts, and bring bad luck to them. One of the most important religious festivals is Kubandwa, which celebrates the harvest.

Music, dancing, and drumming are important aspects of their culture. Men and women have different dances. These dances are performed during holidays, like the Sorghum harvesting Festival. Groups of 7-9 drummers perform with the dancers, harpists, flutists, and other musicians.They celebrate major Christian holidays, the Rwandan and Burundian independence days, May Day, and New Year's day.

Arts and Literature

The Hutu people use art to express themselves, especially during the long rainy season. In their art, geometric shapes are used and their art usually focuses on using the tan color of rafia with dyed black materials to show contrast. They create unique baskets, ceramics, paintings, and woodworking pieces. Handmade jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces are also important. The Hutu also have many legends and folktales that are important, and passed down from generation to generation. Since illiteracy is widespread, there is hardly any written literature. However, oral storytelling of legends, stories, folktales, poems, and songs is important. An important folklore hero is Samadari. There are stories about how he would break the rules that everyone else had to follow. He also criticized the rich and powerful, which contributed to the long lasting resentment between the Hutu and Tutsi people.

This image shows Hutu men perforning the traditional dance used celebrate or honor past heros.

Economic Systems

The Hutus have mainly an agricultural economy. Most people live largely from subsistence farminng and grow coffee on the side to earn more income. They have a very low level of industrialization. The Hutu people trade coffee and tea, which are their primary exports. They have developed small industries to meet local demands, but mainly farm. Rwanda is also a main transport center for gold, diamods, and other things mined in Congo.


Roles and Rights of Women

Women take care of the home. They also help with the farming and help to plant, hoe, and weed crops. Women are respected and highly honored in the home, but have very little decision-making authority in the home and in society. A woman's status is subservient and not much higher than that of a child, so they are expected to obey the wishes of their husband or other men.


Many Hutus fled due to the genocide. Many fled to Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, and other parts of Africa to escape the violence. There were many refugee camps set up in places such as Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo. The Rwanda genocide resulted in about 3 million Hutu and Tutsi refugees. Many escaped due to the increasing violence between the Hutus and the Tutsis, and some escaped because of intertribal marriages. Most of these refugees were treated as criminals and outsiders.

Rwanda has a powerful president, along with a multiparty cabinet and a prime minister. The country is divided into twelve regions, which are known as prefectures and are divided into communes. Traditionally, the local community played the main role in maintaining social order. A council of elders would meet to reach a fair settelment in a process called agacaca. This is still used as well as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who used extensive force to maintain order, such as arresting people suspected of involvement in the genocide.

1301-1800 Many cattle herders settle in Burundi known as the Hutus and Tutsis. The Tutsi cattle-herders establish a feudal system over the Hutus even though the Hutus arrived in the area centuries before the Tutsis.1550 The kingdom of Burundi is formed.1894 Germany colonizes Rwanda. 1918 The Belgians assume control of Rwanda. 1933 The Belgians organize a census and mandate that everyone be issued an identity card classifying them as either Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. 1959 A Hutu rebellion begins against the Tutsis and Belgians. January 1961 The Tutsi monarchy is abolished. July 1, 1962 Rwanda gains its independence. 1988 The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) is created in Uganda. 1990 The RPF invade Rwanda, starting a civil war. April 6, 1994 Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana is killed when his plane is shot out of the sky. April 7, 1994 Hutu extremists begin killing their political opponents. April 9, 1994 Massacre at Gikondo - hundreds of Tutsis are killed in the Pallottine Missionary Catholic Church. The attack was clearly targeting only the Tutsi, so this was the first clear sign that a genocide was occurring. April 18, 1994 The Kibuye Massacres. An estimated 12,000 Tutsis are killed after sheltering at the Gatwaro stadium in Gitesi. Another 50,000 are killed in the hills of Bisesero. More are killed in the town's hospital and church. April 28-29 Approximately 250,000 people, mostly Tutsi, flee to neighboring Tanzania. May 23, 1994 The RPF takes control of the presidential palace. July 5, 1994 The French establish a safe zone in the southwest corner of Rwanda. July 13, 1994 Approximately one million people, mostly Hutu, begin fleeing to Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and become refugees.July 1994 The Rwanda Genocide ends when the RPF gains control of the country. 1995 Western governments including the U.S. give $600 million to aid Rwanda.

From the American Point of View:Americans would probably see this culture as primitive and very behind the U.S. in technology and modern developments. The Hutus are an agricultural society, while the U.S. is a post-industrial society so it would be very different. Americans would say that the Hutus should develop a government and economy similar to the U.S. and develop more Western ways of doing things.

Hutu View of America:The Hutus would probably judge American values and culture as being too materialistic. The Hutus live off of the land and have just enough to get by. This is much different from the U.S. which revolves around always wanting more and having an abundance of resources.

A Hutu woman carries firewood on her back as well as her child. Women have to work in the fields as well as care for children.

These show maps of Burundi and Rwanda, which is where the Hutu people live.

Hutu Culture


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