In a world where geographical boundaries often dictate cultural narratives, the African Aurora exhibition at Gallery Desiego on Mount Nam in Seoul shatters the illusion of distance, bringing vibrant Rwandan contemporary art to the heart of Korea. The exhibit, marking the milestone of 60 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and Rwanda, brings together a diverse group of Rwandan artists, each contributing their unique voice to Seoul. Artists Brave Rumariza, Strong Karakire, Daniel Dylan Mucyo, Mukholi Timothy Wandulu, Myriam Uwiragiye and Jemima Akimanizanye visited Korea earlier this month to showcase a range of styles and themes from abstract forms and mixed media to traditional elements and social commentary, offering a glimpse into contemporary Rwandan art. Artists Floride Mukabageni and Isaac Manirumva also took part in the exhibit. Natacha Muziramakenga, a multidisciplinary artist and creative director who organized this exhibition with Korean partner Son Sung-ik, explained that Koreans and Rwandans do not know much about each other beyond what is portrayed in the media and people often have a single narrative or stereotype about a place and its people. This exhibition allows Koreans to meet Rwandans and engage in conversations, breaking down these preconceived notions, she said, noting that this could be more interesting as Asia and Africa have different histories of colonization, allowing for a fresh start in building relationships, during an interview with The Korea Times, Sept. 10. There is a focus on themes of healing, mental health and resilience in this exhibition and Muziramakenga said the artworks offer a mix of perspectives, including those from different generations and build a platform for discussing universal social issues. According to the curator, Mukabageni holds a special place in Rwanda's contemporary art as she was one of the first women to be admitted to the Nyundo School of Art and Music. Beyond her role as an artist creating interesting works, she has significantly influenced many people and continues to do so. She also serves as a role model for a new generation of women in the visual arts, a field where gender imbalance has been a longstanding issue, Muziramakenga explained. Her presence and representation embody the potential for change and inspiration in the art world. Uwiragiye's works offer a personal exploration of her journey as a Black woman, particularly focusing on themes of depression, healing and self-love. She did not formally study art, but she captures the representation of Black women, challenging the often overly sexualized or stereotypical portrayals in mainstream art. Akimanizanye's faces full of butterflies utilizes vivid colors to spark conversations about often taboo subjects related to mental health. The geometric lines and patterns in her works are also a significant part of Rwandan art, inspired by traditional designs. The artist described her visit to Korea as a beautiful experience, reflecting how people with a love of art came to see the exhibition. They can relate to the art we brought in, which connected us and started conversations that are important, Akimanizanye said. We learned a lot about Korea and the culture and I think we have a lot of similarities. Inspired by Rwanda’s history MDD's collage works are part of a series called Quiet Screams, which delves into the day-to-day struggles that people often shy away from discussing. This series talks about the sense of feeling lost, having self-doubt, self-hate. I use art as a way to convey those emotions, MDD said. I'm really attached to all these paintings because they're personal stories. When it comes to technique, MDD employs mixed media on paper, creating layers that add depth and complexity to the work. I feel like there's a sense of connection to the paper when you touch it, when you put paint on it, he said. “It's hard to find the right image to use.” Wandulu’s works are a celebration of stories, often rooted in the personal experiences of his family and friends as well as Rwanda’s history. His art is particularly influenced by the history of Rwanda, including the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi people. When you go to the genocide museum, you find these photos and you wonder about the story behind these photos, he said. The figures in the painting do not feature specific models, but Wandulu depicts people he knows, capturing shared experiences that viewers can relate to. When someone looks at the work, they can see themselves, the artist said. He explained that the focus on personal experience in Rwandan artists' work stems from their unique generational perspective and the country's history. As we grow, we experience life differently, he said, emphasizing that their art reflects the responsibilities they feel towards preserving the peace and harmony that Rwanda has achieved. Wandulu saw this exhibition, running through Sept. 30, as a great starting point to connect with Korea, which could lead to more cultural exchanges between the two countries. I think we are going to see more sharing, he said, hoping for Korean artists to showcase in Rwanda and vice versa.