Hip Hop for Hope: Hirwa's effort to empower youngsters through dance

Chris Hirwa, 22, one of Rwanda’s most talented hip hop dancers, is determined to take the country’s urban dance scene to another level.
Chris Hirwa, the talented Afro-poppin' specialist.
Chris Hirwa, the talented Afro-poppin' specialist.

Chris Hirwa, 22, one of Rwanda’s most talented hip hop dancers, is determined to take the country’s urban dance scene to another level. 

A hip hop lover since childhood, Hirwa learnt the art and skills from his uncle who eagerly taught him his first funk steps. He then watched YouTube videos for inspiration.

Without having received professional training from a recognised dance school, and without any experience, Hirwa worked hard to get his name out there, staying alert to find out about any opportunity to perform and make money.

In 2011, he founded his own dance crew called Krest Crew, which brings old and new styles together. Up to this day, “Whatever I do, I do it for my crew,” he says.

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Hirwa (in yellow t-shirt) during practice at the Kimisagara Youth Centre.

Every morning, he practices at the Kimisagara Youth Centre where he also trains others.

“We started with many but now we’re few because dancing is hard. You have to practice every day to become good and endure the pain,” admits the young talent.

A strong believer in the power of using dance to take children off the streets and empowering the most disadvantaged, Hirwa dedicates his time and effort to teaching in Kigali’s orphanages twice a week.

“Instead of taking drugs, kids can come to learn hip hop! And when we come together, we can share experiences and a vision,” says the ‘afro-poppin’ specialist.

He also wants to recruit girls. “Where are the girls? Do you know any female hip hop dancers in Rwanda? Well, that’s because there aren’t girls doing this yet. I want to teach them!” he adds. Eventually, he is aiming at teaching across different provinces of Rwanda, including the more remote rural areas.

This movement; he refers to it as Hip Hop for Hope since it creates positive change in society.

In addition, he wants to organise a region wide hip hop event that would bring dancers from all corners together.

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Hirwa (in yellow t-shirt) during practice at the Kimisagara Youth Centre. (All photos by S.  Arslanian)

Even though Rwanda has a number of local hip hop dancers and crews, there are still no established events dedicated to the art yet.

But it does not end there; Hirwa is full of ambition and bigdreams. “One day, I will organise a dance festival, hopefully soon,” he says. Since there is no local market for his type of dance yet, he also wants to work on building that market.

“Comedy nights, film or sport events for example, people talk about them on the radio. People promote them. Us it’s different, we just use Facebook.”

Aware that hip hop is not valued as much as the more traditional dances in the eyes of fellow Rwandans; Hirwa is trying his best to promote a hip hop culture in his beloved home country. His driving force is not money, it is passion!

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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