Cedrick Iradukunda had many interests growing up. Being a good football player was one of his many talents. He didn’t even have to worry about school fees as he was constantly awarded with scholarships due to his football skills. He had to drop football, though, to pursue a degree at the University of Rwanda. No one would have believed that drawing would one day be the primary source of income for the mechanical engineering graduate. Iradukunda, who was rather a shy kid, started drawing with a pencil at an early age. His drawings were mainly from his observation and keen attention to detail. However, he would keep all his drawings to himself for fear of criticism from others.He was scared of his parents’ reaction, like any other 14-year-old spending time on anything else other than school. One day when he was supposed to be reading through his homework, he started drawing the image of one of his mother’s guests who was seated a short distance from him. His sister saw him peep into the living room constantly where she was also seated. When she noticed he was looking at them and then turning briefly to the notebook he had in front of him, she gave a signal to their mother saying that he was distracted instead of focusing on the homework. Iradukunda’s mother then excused herself and called him outside. Trembling, he handed her his notebook to see what he was working on. To his surprise, his mother just shook her head in disbelief and asked him nicely to go back to his homework, without making any comment about his drawing. After the guests left, his mother acknowledged that he had done a good job drawing the guest’s face, but the subject ended there and was never discussed again. To Iradukunda’s dismay, shortly after the incident, one of his friends made a very rude comment about one of his drawings. “I really don’t think this is your thing,” he said to Iradukunda. Heavily discouraged by his friend, Iradukunda stopped drawing and concentrated on other things, including school. The passion was revived during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic. His university had moved online and he found himself with so much time on his hands. He would pass time online, for lack of occupation, to watch YouTube tutorials on how to draw. After the pandemic subsided, he went to visit a friend who was also good at drawing and painting. They talked a little about art and what it takes to be good at it. The friend said to him, “Why don’t you try when you seem to be very interested?” Iradukunda went ahead to tell him how he was previously discouraged. “It is up to you to decide because not everyone is able to appreciate art. Your talent is obvious, just practice more and get better. I’m sure you won’t regret it,” the friend said. The words kept echoing in his head until he decided to go for it. Since then, Iradukunda has grown to become an accomplished, hyper realistic artist—charcoal and graphite portraits specifically. He draws per commission mostly, for which his minimum production is sold at Rwf50, 000. “Sometimes I can get over Rwf200, 000 on one command. It just depends on the request, the complexity of the drawing and the time required,” he said. One drawing takes him one to three days. “It took me one word to get discouraged and it took another one to get me inspired. This shows how much words we hear from our people go a long way,” he explained. The biggest challenge in his career has been lack of materials on the local market as he imports most of them from abroad. But never will it ever be a lack of confidence, he says. Iradukunda advises other upcoming artists to first of all believe in themselves, start small, find their niche and learn from each other. “I started with Rwf10, 000 to buy the first materials but now I import the good quality ones. Be very ambitious, but it is okay to start small and grow step by step,” he says. He calls upon collective collaboration in the industry. He also calls upon parents to encourage their children’s talents as they grow up and to change the preconception about artists that society has. Iradukunda dreams to set up a gallery where young artists can showcase their talents and acquire classes on how to better their skills. His Instagram handle is @cedro_art1 which is where he receives most of the orders.