Between March 1994 and March 1998 this unfurnished hall was home to some 2000 internally displaced people: Hutu and Tutsi who were chased out of their own communities.
|Refurbishing the drums
In preparation for the tour, the drummers were replacing the skins on the drums. According to Lena Slachmuijlder, drums have an important role in Burundi history and culture. Traditionally, they were played only during royal occasions, such as the annual harvest festival. The abundance of Kirundi terms for drums attests to their cultural significance. The word for drum, ingoma, also connotes status and power. The transliteration of the Kirundi statement "the King his seated on his throne" (umwami arikungoma) is "the King is seated on his drums". There is a name for each of the eight sacred drums and each has a specific ritual purpose. There are words to describe different parts of the drum which have reproductive allusions. According to Lena, "the skin is likened to a baby's cradle, the pegs to the mother's breasts, and the body of the drum to the stomach." 
Today a smelly cow hide was purchased for the occasion. The old punctured skins were torn off and the pegs that secured them to the hollowed, tree-trunk frames, beaten out. New sections of pelt were roughly cut and stretched tightly over the old frames using the same dowels.
While the drummers were working in the courtyard outside their studio, I took a look inside. During the crisis, Buyenzi was one of only two neighbourhoods of Bujumbura where members of both ethnic groups could move around in relative safety. Between March 1994 and March 1998 this unfurnished hall was home to some 2000 internally displaced people: Hutu and Tutsi who were chased out of their own communities.  I found it hard to fathom how so many people could have lived in such a cramped space.