Rwandans in the arts and creative sector are using their talent and skill to initiate and drive social causes, showing bravery and selflessness qualites that are celebrated on Heroes Day, February 1.
Among them are cultural promoters who passionately preserve Rwanda’s rich history, ensuring that the stories of determined men and women resonate with the younger generation, as well as artists who serve as visual storytellers to portray the image of heroes through various mediums.
The New Times reached out to them to share their inspiration and journey.
Christian Intwari, founder of Our Past
‘Our Past’, a youth-led initiative organises events and aims to educate young people about the Genocide and inspires them to take the initiative to rebuild the country.
“I was inspired by the fact that those who saved this nation were as young as we were when we started. The idea was to help people especially younger generation to learn about our history – the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and to use that knowledge to rebuild the Rwanda we want.
The youth, born after the genocide, carry the key to our nation’s future. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that the memory of the past lives on, not as a burden, but as a guiding light towards a brighter, more unified future.”
Intwari urges fellow youth to honor those who sacrificed their lives defending the country by emulating their courage and resilience.
“We can pay tribute by actively participating in initiatives that promote unity, peace, and justice. Let their legacy inspire us to work towards a society where such sacrifices are remembered, respected, and contribute to building a better nation for future generations,” he added.
Hope Azeda, founder of Mashirika Performing Arts
“The Ubumuntu arts festival was born out of a desire to grasp the essence of humankind. Through its artistic experience across time and space, the festival aims to inform and inspire new ways of thinking about some of the most challenging aspects of the human condition.
In the course of the past nine years, the stage has been graced by more than 60 countries. Artistic collaborations have resulted in the creation and touring of several performances worldwide.
My advice to the young is that they should stay anchored to their authentic self so that they can build a solid foundation to anchor themselves elsewhere in the world. Heroism is an act of humanity and where the values of humanity are embraced a society yields good fruits.”
Jemima Kakizi, visual artist
She is a creative composer whose work includes painting, clothing design and visual art with an aim to bring about social change especially in uplifting women while tackling persistent issues like mental health, teenage pregnancy and others.
The curator acknowledged that Rwandans now appreciate the importance of art in education and daily life. Additionally, there’s a notable increase in the number of women artists in Rwanda.
Jemima argues that arts should be celebrated because learning through it is a wonderful approach that engages people of different ages and backgrounds.
She noted: “It helps engage in conversation, critical thinking and solving problems. All these aspects help inspire future generations to pursue art as a career and address community issues through meaningful means.”
King Ngabo, artist
He is the founder of ‘Museum Ingabo Corner’ specialized in African storytelling and general art most especially local events to promote nationalism and honour the sacrifices made by Rwanda’s heroes who exemplified the highest values of patriotism and sacrifice for the well-being of the country.
“I was inspired by our lifestyle and literally what I do is ‘Ubunyarwanda’, the Rwandan spirit,” he said.
My arts represent facts rather than mere images or metaphors. For instance, a portrait might depict a specific individual like President Kagame or the late General Fred Gisa Rwigema, but the intention is not solely about that particular person. Instead, it signifies the actions and truths associated with them.”
He expressed that his works convey positive messages, as people from various backgrounds engage with his art for academic research, exploring historical facts, and other related studies.
In this regard, Ngabo encourages the youth to embrace Rwanda’s identity strongly and resist any attempts to be misled or take it away.
Alexis Ngabo Karegeya, founder Ibere rya Bigogwe
He is the founder of an emerging cultural tourism site known as ‘Ibere rya Bigogwe’, situated in Nyabihu District in north-western region of Rwanda.
Ibere Rya Bigogwe’s tours involve diverse cultural activities like hiking, visiting Bigogwe cows, drinking fresh milk in traditional cups (Inkongoro, udukebe, ingare), learning to milk cows, understanding Kinyarwanda words and traditional practices like kwivugira inka (Cow praising) and many others.
Ngabo emphasized the importance of youth promoting locally made products, arguing that our cultural identity provides the power to be recognised internationally.
“Without a strong cultural foundation, adaptation to foreign influences may lead to a loss of identity. The heroes we are celebrating all had something in common – love for their country. This serves as an inspiration and we should learn from them without limitations,” he said.