RWANDA Project

RVCA artist Freddy Sam from South Africa paints Rwanda's first large-scale mural for World Aid's Day. Read more for photos and text by Megan King.

Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga- to Create, to See, to Learn

We were invited by the wonderful people from the Kurema project to be a part of the first large-scale mural in Kigali, to be painted in honour of World Aids Day that took place on the 1st of December. Specifically, the project aims to address the issues around the stigma of those living with or affected by HIV at a personal and community level. The first part of our mission was to work with the local artists of Ivuka to co-create an artwork that will help represent this message. The message needs to be clear and culturally relevant. During the workshop, the artists taught us about traditional intore warriors and dancers of Rwanda and other symbols of strength and community.

Kigali’s first large-scale mural comes to life, with a cause

Getting the artwork up onto the 12-meter building possessed all the makings of a good comedy. At our first encounter with the wall, we were introduced to the shoddy looking and swerving scaffolding that besides the safety implication, would take you as far as the skirt of our intore warrior. After scouring much of city, the team eventually came across the lesser-spotted cherry picker that would extend its long neck and bucket to the top of the wall. For added fun, the driver came with his foot in cast.

The comedy was certainly a feel-good though. Working with and getting to meet the iVuka artists was pure delight. At first appearing difficult to read, the locals are some of the kindest and most charming people we’ve ever had the opportunity to take residence with. The mural that colours the Rwandan bio-medical center is an expression of their collective talent. The top of the mural reads ‘My Lovely Rwanda, together we will stand up against the stigma of Aids.’ Warmest thanks to Charles and Judy for all their hard work and pulling this thing off. I hope this is only the beginning of more positive public art in Kigali.

The atmosphere at Ivuka Arts is so beautiful, open studio spaces look over lush green hills, and there is constant life with the Rwandan Dance Troop singing and drumming. The walls are draped with magnificent art and sculptures made from waste materials. The studio has played an important role in developing a platform for local art, and for many artists, an opportunity to create a positive life for themselves.

Rwanda is a very complex yet deeply beautiful country. The country is still healing from its devastating history that destroyed an entire people. Many people, especially woman and children, were infected with the virus during the months of terror. Many more are still living with it today. Kurema aims to give these people a voice, to explore platforms of expression through art and stories of ‘living positively.’ Above all, Kurema aims to educate people by creating an open discussion around discrimination and stigma. The country is still healing, but I am humbled at how far they have come to reconcile. My experience here has been gentle, original and moving.

FreddySam and Fabian from Ivuka Arts

FreddySam and the intore warrior

FreddySam working with the Ivuka artists

Ivuka Arts, our Rwandan home

Kurema's fundraiser exhibition and party

Rwanda's smiling children

Team Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga

The final mural, in honour of World Aids Day

the painter and the writer

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