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Bonfils Ngabonziza. Street art can teach even those Rwandans who haven’t gone to school
In this interview we speak to Bonfils Ngabonziza, the young and talented self-taught Rwandan artist and muralist who wants art to change his country for the better. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou.
Bonfils Ngabonziza is one of Rwanda’s most talented young contemporary artists. After finishing high school he realised that his true passion lay in the arts and decided to teach himself to become a painter first, then a muralist. Inspired by children and women, he uses art to portray his inner feelings, spreading peaceful, loving and inspiring messages. His paintings and murals most often revolve around social themes and aim to advance human rights for all.
Ngabonziza explains with a lot of enthusiasm that becoming famous was not his goal in life but that what he really wished, and still wishes, is to use art as a vehicle for positive change, witnessing its lasting impact on society.
Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga (to create, to see, to learn) is a Kigali-based public arts social enterprise. After meeting Judith Kaine, its founder and Director, Ngabonziza and fellow artists from Ivuka Arts, the first community arts centre in Rwanda, decided to work together with Kurema in 2014 to create a series of murals that address the stigma around HIV/AIDS.
Even though Rwanda has had a tremendous success in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with estimates from 2013 showing that the prevalence amongst those aged 15 to 49 is only 2.9%, stigma around the condition remains. As the Government of Rwanda leads the HIV response in the country, the collaboration between Kurema and Ivuka artists reinforces the government’s work.
The murals are located in busy neighbourhoods of Kigali. They embody the idea that street art with a strong public health message helps in sharing important information in an innovative way, while adding vitality to the urban landscape.
Ngabonziza points out why he felt the urge to participate in the project:
“These thought-provoking murals are telling all Rwandans, especially those who haven’t gone to school, to fight stigmatization.
Some Rwandans don’t even know much about the arts but by looking at the murals they can identify with what is represented and learn”.
The murals, in fact, are painted in a realist style so that everyone can understand their messages. The artist also explains his projects for the future:
“I am also in the process of making a series of murals promoting reconciliation”.
Regardless of ethnic background, education level and social status he wants his fellow Rwandans to understand the important concepts of peace, unity, love and life.
“That is why I called my project PULL. I dream that one day, all around the world, we will sing ‘Peace, Unity, Love, and Life’ ”.
His paintings are now available at Ivuka Arts Kigali. For those wishing to learn more about Rwanda’s contemporary art scene, Vayando, the travel platform that puts local micro entrepreneurs on the tourism map connects Ivuka artists with curious travellers.
Bonfils Ngabonziza is one of the many young talents coming out of Africa. Share these and other stories of African excellence through the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, the platform to give the continent a new and brighter image.
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