How Genocide has shaped Rwandan art

The arts industry, was in 1994 used by the government of the time to incite hatred and genocide against a section of Rwandans.

Considering the influence of this sector, the negative ambition was attained, culminating in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi that claimed over a million people.


Twenty-six years later, the country’s arts industry has evolved, with musicians, painters and actors among others, choosing to use their influence positively.


The New TimesDivine Irebe and Lavie Mutanganshuro take us through stories of artists whose careers were shaped by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.


Abdul Rwigema, painter

After recognising how people love art and how it can easily change their attitude, I chose to use my talent in disseminating good news. Some of my paintings specifically portray what young people went through at the times, whereby many of them were left orphaned and with younger siblings to take care of with no means or experience.

As a Rwandan, this is what I'm capable of doing to help my country and my fellow citizens in bid to uphold the truth of our unique tragic history.

In future I aspire to start an organisation that will fund and develop young talents that will help in the battle of telling the truth and rebuking every evil act.

Leopold Gasigwa, film director

I can say that I gave myself a responsibility to tell stories of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. I do documentaries of truth-based testimonies of fellow survivors so that even the generation to come will never forget what happened in our country.

I also do it to help survivors get relief, because the more we talk about what we experienced, the more we feel relieved.

By doing this, I get very good feedback from people, and the other important thing is that the documentaries also shames genocide deniers because they (documentaries) are factual.

Yannick Kamanzi, actor

Considering that I am one of the generations born after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, I saw a gap in the art sector in relation to our approach to communicating the 1994 genocide, whereby my generation wasn’t considered previously.

There were many unanswered questions especially on how all of us who weren’t alive during the genocide can know the truth of what happened and unite our efforts regardless of our backgrounds and strive for a common goal, which is the well-being of our country.

That’s how I chose to also come in and fill that gap with other youth who also had the same idea and we joined Mashirika, a performing arts and media company.

The gap is being filled progressively, and I can say that there is still a lot of work to do, especially the aspect of research that we are still doing as a post-genocide generation, because the fact is that the more you know, the more you can share.

Jean de Dieu Bonhomme Rwamihare, singer

After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, I decided to use my talent in singing songs related to what happened by then, as a way of playing my role in the fight against Genocide.

I sing songs that mainly talk about the life that people lived in that hard and frustrating time. This is because there are people who don’t know what really took place and considering that we who saw it will not live forever, it is always good to do something that will last long so that even the next generation will find what to refer to.

This has also helped genocide survivors to feel relief and get the strength of moving on instead of being enslaved by their tragic past.

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