Gakondo cards: An ace for Heritage

Monday March 18 2019


The Gakondo cards made with Rwandan theme and motifs. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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People collect all sorts of memorabilia, for either sentimental or commercial value. I collect playing cards. 

I was therefore thrilled when WeAdd, a Kigali-based creative studio run by graphic designers and photographers launched a deck of cards with Rwandan motifs representing the culture and heritage of the country. 

The cards are called Gakondo Playing Cards. Gakondo is Kinyarwanda for traditions. This deck of cards doubles up as an archive, preserving imagery of Rwandan heritage from clothing, hairstyle, dance, music, art and craft. 

Gakondo is a unique deck of playing cards. 

Instead of the normal red and black spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds, the Gakondo playing cards are colourful and feature cultural imagery images of an Igisabo (butter churn), inanga (music instrument), agaseke (the round woven basket), icumu (spear), ingabo (shield), and Imigongo (cow dung art) and with intore (traditional dancer) and old men dressed in the umwitero (traditional wear reserved for the noble class) on the front side of the cards. 

Maxime Niyomwungeri, the creative director behind the Gakondo cards said; “This project was inspired by Rwandan traditions. Our objective is to create something that would bridge the gap between the youth and elderly through a creative and interactive game, connecting people while also paying homage to our culture.


We also thought it would be a pocket-friendly souvenir for both Rwandans and tourists. 

We approached it completely from an artistic perspective with the aim of creating an art piece for future generations.” 

The Gakondo are Rwanda’s first locally-designed cards and the only gaming product that has been designed in the country. 

The cultural imagery are paired to complement with each other, such that, the image of the intore dancer is paired with the ingabo based on the Rwandan warriors who carried the spear and shield to the battlefield. 

The dancing figure is characterised by elegance and grace, emphasised by the billowing silhouettes of the Intore dancers’ attire. 

The women dressed in imishananas (Rwanda’s colourful national dress) is paired with the agaseke (basket) which is used to carry and store food and is carried by being elegantly balanced on the head. 

“The name Gakondo was not picked in the spur of a moment, but came about after a long background research on the culture since we did not want to create something substandard,” said Niyomwungeri.