The King's Palace

24 March 2012


Until 1959, Rwanda's King lived in the Palace. All huts had a spike at the center of the roof.
Only the King's Palance had three spikes on top.
The lower two spikes represent the horns of the King's traditional cattle. Whenever the King died,
the next King (son or brother of the last king) was required to construct a new palace.




Bamboo fence around the King's Palace





Every hut has only one entrance.
The entrance to the King's Palace has unique features.
The King's stool is just inside the entrance on the left.
Visitors were required to remove shoes and enter over the
white ridge on the floor after they received permission from the King.




Crossing the line







The Main Chamber of the King's Palace
A fireplace is just out of view in the foreground.
Layers of grass under the woven floor mats makes for soft, muffled walking.
The vertical semicurcular room dividers of woven plant fibers
separate the main room from the King's bedroom
which is entered via the central opening.




From the Main Chamber looking to the Entrance of the Palace
The interior is softly lit as outdoor light filters through the bamboo screens.




Ceiling and supports





An exterior of thatch made of elephant grass and interior of woven bamboo provide excellent waterproofing and insulation.
Even when the tropical sun is fiercely hot, the inside temperature remains very comfortable.





Filtered light






Woven baskets in the King's bedroom






Roof supports





Center of the dome





Elegantly simple construction of natural materials





Sunlight through a bamboo screen





Milk jugs in the Milkmaid's hut


The Queen Mother selected a young girl from the tribe to serve as the King's milkmaid.
It was her duty to provide the finest milk for the king. The Milkmaid lived alone
in her special hut just behind the King's Palace.
Milk was kept in wooden bottles topped with conical woven lids.
Gourds stored other liquids.






The Milkmaid's Hut (left) and the Beer Hut (right) are located just behind the King's Palace





A select young man lived alone in the Beer Hut and
made banana beer exclusively for the King.





Vessels in the Beer Hut






The King had a herd of Traditional Cattle with distinctive horns.
These were a sign of his great wealth.
The herd is kept in a pen behind the King's Palace.
Each animal was decorated with woven necklaces and was
identified by a unique song sung by the attendants.
When the King participated in ceremonial events, he was accompanied by his cattle.





A bull from the King's herd





Evidence of skirmishes:
A bull's horn





A pair of frowns





After Germany lost World War II, Rwanda became Belgian colony. In 1959 the Belgians built this modern palace for
the King of Rwanda. Lavishly decorated with fine furniture, it now serves as museum with many photographs
showing the colonial history of Rwanda. When the last King died, his brother became King but the brother is living
in the United States and has not returned to Rwanda, which is now governed by an elected President and Parliment.





The former King's Palace.





A design found on the wall of the former King's Palace



More photos by GR Davis