Burundi’s borders were not determined by colonial rulers, unlike most African countries. The vast majority of its population is Hutu. However, the Tutsi minority has historically controlled the army and most of the economy, especially the fruitful coffee export. Between the two peoples few real cultural differences are distinguishable and both of them surprisingly speak the same language (Rundi, or Kirundi). Even so, ethnic conflict has plagued the country since it gained independence from Belgium, conditioning Burundian daily life to fall under the pressures of survival and civil war. Since the fall of the monarchy in 1966, much of Burundi’s rich cultural heritage – like folk songs and dances celebrative of the virtues of kingship – started fading. Once, widely celebrated events included the annual sorghum festival, an occasion to display traditional dances and drummers beating the Karyenda (“sacred drum”). Throughout history, Burundians have also protracted a tradition of expression through the visual arts, such as with papyrus panels, ceramic manufacture, basketry, and beadwork.
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