Jean-Marie Vianney Munezero is a reserved and resilient young man, who, from a humble beginning, has managed to make his way up and earn a living through art.
Born on December 3, 1992, in Nyamasheke, Munezero never got the privilege of going to school early in his childhood.
“I never went to school until when I was nine, and managed to stay in school for only four years. Much as I wanted to stay in school the person who was paying my tuition couldn’t afford it anymore and I had to drop out.” Munezero recalls.
Munezero had no option but to work as a herdsman for a period of two years. He later moved to Kigali (in Masaka to be precise) where he worked as a houseboy. In 2008, he relocated to Kacyiru near the Ivuka Arts Centre and it’s around that time that he started picking interest in art.
Unlike other artists Munezero had never dreamed of painting or drawing sketches at one point in his lifetime.
“I never in my life thought I could take art as a career until I got inspiration from a group of artists at Ivuka Arts Centre. That’s when I discovered that I had the potential to become a great artist.”
His friends at the centre talk of how he used to go and see what they were doing until 2009 when he decided to quit his job as a domestic helper and take on art.
“Munezero used to stay in the neighborhood (near Ivuka), so he would always come and go but after discovering that he could earn a living through art he opted to join us,” narrates Charles Kizito, one of his friends
The artists did not get formal training.
“Personally I have been mothered and nurtured or should call it mentored here at Ivuka Arts Centre. I learnt from individual artists over the years”
He draws his passion for art from Collin Sekajugo, an artist and the founder of Ivuka Arts Centre.
Munezero’s art work sends out a message to the public. He says his work always conveys a message of peace, unity and reconciliation. This is clearly illustrated by people holding hands in his paintings or light paintings to represent peace and pure hearts.
His works also depict Rwandan culture and the influence of modernity.
But he is not without challenges in his work.
“Our people barely appreciate art because of our culture; some see it as a waste of time. Look at Ivuka; it has been here for close to eight years but you can count the number of locals who have visited the centre.”
Language barrier is another threat to the success of Munezero’s work as he is not able to communicate in any other language apart from Kinyarwanda.
Asked whether one can solely depend on art in Rwanda today,
Munezero said that it’s possible with patience and discipline.
“Initially I was staying in someone’s home as a herdsman but now I can afford a place of my own through what I earn from my art work. I am married with two children and I fend for my family.”
“I call upon government and the general public to support art. To my fellow artists, never give up, you can become somebody regardless of your past and don’t worry about anything you can’t control.”