What you need to know:
Scholastic materials used in the 1950s, local currencies, grinding stones, music instruments and how they have evolved, the evolution of cars, medals, traditional wear of the past can be seen in Lyamugyenyi museum.
A collection of cultural evolution through the years, politics and nature put into a single space as sculptures, ornaments and treasures are forming big part of tourism in Ntungamo District.
The gateway to tourist destinations such as Bwindi Impenetrable, Mgahinga, Queen Elizabeth national parks and the greater Kigezi tourism cluster, investment in tourism largely remains a viable business.
Without ecotourism, Ntungamo District hoteliers and investors are now turning to preserving culture and boosting the hospitality industry to attract travellers on their way to the other destinations.
In Rwahi, off Ntungamo-Kabale Road at the tail end of the Ankore region, Satellite Hotel has set up an amusement park, with a collection of sculptures for tourists to enjoy on the tour to Kigezi region.
Set up in a 2000-sitter hall on top of the greater Rwahi hill, the museum separates Ankole from Kigezi and Ntungamo from Rukiga District.
It also presents a greater opportunity; a glimpse of what to expect on the next tour. It is a cocktail of the past, the present and the realities of life, through the lens of art collections.
On the Ntungamo-Rukungiri Road, Lyamugyenyi hoteliers have set up an equally big historical and cultural museum. The museum presents a heritage through times in collections.
At the Great Lakes museum, there is a rich history on different cultures in Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, among other countries.
The collections at the site and the hospitality that includes restaurant, bar, lodges and other recreation services provide a more inviting environment for one to visit the place.
Collections from more than 1,000 cultures across Africa, and the African Monolith tree – known as the tree of life, with sculptures of different cultures and people are becoming a centre of attraction.
Preserving culture for the future
Outside the main museum, sculptures of animals, people, economic activities in the past and the present are also on display.
Mr Happious Kangume, a tour guide, says there is a lot about cultural heritage that children in this generation and those in the coming generations need to be exposed to.
“The world has changed so fast that even 20 year-olds do not know that there was a time when people used huts-manyattas for housing or shelter. Some people do not know that in the past, people used to sleep on mats. People do not know how granaries look like. They do not know how their grandparents used to defend themselves during fights, the currency they used, how they traded, clans, tribes and their formation and totems,” Mr Kangume notes.
Dr Muniini Mulera in one of his columns in Daily Monitor, tells a story of how his children raised in Canada, feared easing selves in a pit latrine at Kayabwe, rejected to eat chicken because they saw it being dressed and feared grandparents. But his children enjoyed walking barefoot in the village.
Harriet Katushabe Matsiko, the proprietor of Great Lakes Museum and the Satellite Hotels, says investing in a museum is a way of preserving cultural heritage.
“We want to showcase the cultures of our region (great lakes region), and preserve our rich history and prevent it from being eroded,” Katushabe says.
“Back in the day, we had commendable oral tradition. Unfortunately, parents have not passed it on to their children. Yet this is one of the avenues through which history is preserved,” she notes.
Things to marvel at
Outside the museum, art sculptures have been constructed to represent the past and present. Inside are sculptures of animals, traditional music instruments, defence and security items, the history of music, money, economy, important people in the world of politics and in civil service, stories and books and discoveries about Ankole and Kigezi region, the clans and totems of the people who live in the Bunyoro- Kitara region.
“People are seeing these things for the first time, tribal formation, lineages, the African monolith showcase different aspects of culture, works, religion, activities based on African setting,” Katushabe adds.
With the United Nations Charter on preservation of sites, hoteliers and investors in the hospitality industry in Ntungamo District are focusing on getting their sites accredited.
Katushabe says they are establishing a centre for sculptures for those who appreciate art such as students and scholars of fine art, and those looking out for tourist attractions.
Satellite Skills Academy- a skills development centre, has been set up to train youth in tourism and hotel management and offer technical, agriculture and entrepreneurship skills.
A restaurant, bar, accommodation, conference centre, gardens, recreation activities are other key attractions at the hotel. Recreation activities include theme park, pirate ship, Zipline, high ropes challenge, hill climbing and participation in agricultural activities such as milking cows and fishing.
Established farms in green houses, poultry farms, vegetable gardens, piggery, cattle, tree planting and seedlings among other agri-production facilities make it a place worth visiting.
Rtd Maj Gen Willis Byarugaba established Lyamugyenyi Museum in 2019. Lyamugyenyi is a mix of class, culture, tradition and history. Everything vintage that Byarugaba has touched in his life makes up the collection.
School books and other scholastic materials used in classes in the 1950s, currencies, traditional items such as grinding stones and baskets, music instruments of the early years and how they have evolved over time such as a jukebox and a record player, the evolution of cars, military hardware including guns and ammunition, war medals, travel maps, dress codes of the past and present are some of the things you will see in this museum.
This museum is a complete story told through vintage collections set up in glass and wood shelves.
“Through this collection, people get to know where I and others like me have come from. The cars I have loved and driven from my first, the countries I have travelled to, the currency we used and the education system we have passed through. We are intentional about preserving this for the future,” Byarugaba says.
Tourists and the fares
Aside from the museum, Lyamugyengi is also a recreation centre. Atop the hill overseeing Rwashamaire Town in Ntungamo District, is a three storey building with a plane-like welded structure outside the hall way.
The cool breeze on the hill , recreation gardens, a children’s play park, restaurant, bar and a conference hall, accommodation, all add a pop of colour to the tourist attraction.
According to Dreck Niwagira, a curator at Great Lakes Museum, they charge Shs10,000 for none natives, Shs5,000 for Ugandans and students pay Shs3,000. At least 60 guests visit the two museums on average everyday.