At approximately 126 years, Mariya Nyirabahinzi could be the oldest Rwandan alive- she has a sharp memory with capacity to piece together details of her life more than a century ago.
According to some details of her conversation with a vernacular website Umuseke, Nyirabahinzi says that she witnessed the arrival of cassava, salt, clothes and colonialists in Rwanda.
When salt arrived in Rwanda according to her, it was a very expensive commodity – Rwandans would have to work all day long in the fields cultivating and get paid with salt.
Today, cultivation work costs between Rwf700 and Rwf1000 depending on the rural location.
She says Rwandans previously squeezed several concoctions to produce a liquid with a salty taste that would be added in beans- and it made beans delicious. For her, introduction of modern salt was the best thing to have happened. It made food delicious.
When she was growing up, they were dressing in animal hides and skins but now she says the clothes today are ‘cool’ and soft on the body. She remembers that animal skins were very tough and rough.
In her narration, she remembers always escorting her father to Gisagara region- her father would go there to look for cultivation job and would in exchange be paid cassava.
Mariya Nyirabahinzi vividly remembers the hunger periods 1897-1903 commonly known as Inzara za Ruyaga while that from 1906-1909 was refered to as Kimwaramwara.
She is a mother of eight but only four of her children are still alive. She is currently living with the youngest daughter aged 88.
This humble family lives in Kicukiro district at Kigarama village, Nunga cell within Gahanga sector.