I am an artist, and I am Rwandan. Most people outside of Africa know only one thing about my country: there was a genocide against the Tutsis that occurred in 1994. But that event was not an ending for Rwanda; it was rather a new beginning.
When I was young, my mother saw and encouraged in me a spark of creativity that has guided my path, and to her I am ever grateful. In 1997, there was no art world in Kigali. Today, there is a creative voice that has risen up to help guide my generation to a new way of looking at the world and to new possibilities for community and economic development.
Many of the artists of Rwanda are under the age of 35 and most of us are self-taught. I, like many others, draw inspiration from the vibrant colors of our country and the fabrics our mothers wear and carry us in as babies. We have used our art to heal our wounds and to convey ideas too difficult to speak.
I work out of Inema Art Center, an art collective I launched with my brother in 2012. We have created a place frequented by visitors from around the world as well as a growing number of Rwandans who often have never imagined a world that includes artistic paintings or sculpture. We employ over 125 people in our collective and provide educational and financial opportunities through the arts for numerous youth. In 2005, when the first art collective in Rwanda opened, you could count on your fingers the number of professional artists in my country, and today, there are more than 100. Now, more and more Rwandan children are growing up inspired to engage in creative work.
Learn more about our work at the Inema Art Center by visiting www.inemaartcenter.com.
Innocent Nkurunziza is a contemporary artist living and working at Inema Art Center in Kigali, Rwanda. He and his younger brother are leading a movement of change through the arts, impacting more and more people every day. He is becoming an international ambassador for Rwanda and for the power of his generation to make the world a better place. See more at inemaartcenter.com.