Raphael Kayiranga is a Rwandan sculptor and painter who draws inspiration from a renowned and iconic Italian sculptor ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ who is best known for his paintings, notably the ‘Mona Lisa’ picture which later became a cultural icon. Unlike painting, which traditionally represents an illusion of three-dimensional space on a flat surface, sculpture actually inhabits the space shared by the viewer. Sculpture is also tactile, one could actually touch it and feel its various textures and forms. His artistic style involves using abandoned materials from construction sites such as discarded furniture, papers, pieces of clothes and other old tools, all of them used to create impressive artistic decorations. His work involves both crafting, painting and renovating these discarded items, giving them a new purpose and aesthetic appeal. ALSO READ: How a young artist is pushing the boundaries of art Kayiranga’s artistic journey began in his childhood, learning from his closest inspirations, mostly his elder brother and Alexander Kabera whom he extended his heartfelt gratitude to for being a role model and trainer, which paved his way to his limelight. “I did not have an opportunity to attend art school but I was fortunate to learn from my fellow artists including Kabera. He generously shared his skills and knowledge with me, teaching me how to come up with ideas, create art and eventually shape them into beautiful creations.” He also mentioned that, “I discovered my talent in primary school, where I could easily create drawings for various subjects especially in science. Teachers would ask me to do it every now and then, an opportunity to nurture my talent,” he recalls. “However I often had hard time taking my own notes, so I would draw for my classmates in exchange for their help in writing my notes during class, all these scenarios imparted many skills,” he added. ALSO READ: How deaf artist is redefining disability through skills From there, the 30-year-old, would do his artistic work just for fun, driven by passion until he switched to professional art work after graduating from college in 2021. “After graduating from college, I immediately turned my art into a full time career. Before then, I would create artworks and distribute to my friends, family and people around as a gift and hobby. But I have since ventured into professional work and I get to attend various exhibitions.” Like any other artist, Kayiranga’s sculptures are driven by the idea behind and always have a message to convey. A useless stem of wood may turn into a beautiful human face, animal face, flying eagle while a piece of past paper exams, expired calendar might be transformed into a basketball net, to mention but a few. Each peace he creates tells a certain narrative. Picking from his artworks he said, “One of my most favorites are: ‘A woman carrying a baby’ and ‘an eagle feeding its eaglets on a nest’. This is an artwork based on a true story, giving a shout out to our mother who struggled as a single parent. It is not just about the art but rather to honor the strength of my mother.” Born in exile and later on returned to the country, Kayiranga attended Integrated Polytechnic Regional College (IPRC) where he studied Constructios in High school and graduated in Civil engineering at the same school.