Ivuka seems like it’s not about to stop in terms of how far it will go to spread the message of unity through music and art with the RwaMakondera group . While in Otawa, Louise Umutoni, happened to bump into Collin Sekajugo, the brain behind the whole project. Below, he talks about Ivuka and RwaMakondera’s future.
The New Times (TNT): You are a long way from home, anything in particular you are doing?
Sekajugo: Yes. Actually, I’m here to promote Ivuka to the Canadian public especially the Rwandans here. I was able to talk to the Ambassador here and she seemed really interested in what we are doing.
However, I made this stop over on my way from the U.S where I participated in the Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at the UN headquarters. I was invited and discussed Ivuka’s involvement in the Healing Process in Rwanda.
TNT: What exactly is Ivuka?
Sekajugo: Ivuka Arts Kigali is a group of established artists who are dedicated to discovering and nurturing young talent in Rwanda. We are social entrepreneurs who want to use art to change lives through building the self esteem of the young artists and encourage unity among these young people. We do this through visual arts and performing arts.
Right now we are building on the performing arts which involve a dance troupe called RwaMakondera. It’s made up of children who love music, most of them just off the streets and others from very poor backgrounds. Music is a kind of therapy for them and they use it to forget about all their problems.
TNT: Are there many children interested in being part of this?
Sekajugo: Actually, yes. It’s been just 2 years but we have 65 children now in the group and it is getting way more recognition than I ever imagined. At the moment, the group has been chosen to represent Africa for a month during the World Children Festival in Holland. The children love to dance and they have worked hard to become the best. I’m very proud of them.
TNT: Why did you decide to start this project?
Sekajugo: A lot of people ask me that question since I was a well established artist in Uganda before I decided to move to Rwanda. First of all, I love society and growing up as an orphan taught me to appreciate people.
I started loving children on the street because I felt I could relate to what they were going through. Also, being Rwandan, I felt I had to give back to my country and help in the building process. Rwanda, I feel, has been under represented in the arts world and I feel the country has a lot more to offer and we need to let people know.
I do not want people to always think ‘Genocide’ whenever Rwanda is mentioned. And when you help the young you are building the future of Rwanda.
TNT: Do you sometimes feel you made the wrong choice?
Sekajugo: Honestly no. At first it was hard because I did all the financing myself, but I got used to it and even now 60% of my earnings goes to the project. But it’s worth every single penny, seeing these children’s lives change so drastically is more than I could ask for.
Most of the children were like wild animals when they came in, they fought a lot and had very bad mentalities. However when you see them now they are the most well behaved children you will ever find.
They have learnt to associate with each other and do not segregate according to tribes like they did before; they are like family to each other. We were also able to change their mindset of begging and most of them are going to school now.
TNT: How come you are still the sole sponsor of this project, a project I should say deserves a lot more recognition?
Sekajugo: Sponsorship has always been our biggest hardship but at the moment a number of people are interested in financing it although no one has made a move to yet.
I think the biggest offer I ever received for the project was Rwf15.000 and that was it. We have had some dignitaries like Cindy McCain, the American Ambassador and the North Carolina Senator visit our studio in Kacyiru. I hope they will market the project.
The Ambassador for example is planning a fundraising show for Ivuka where he will invite all ambassadors in Rwanda.
TNT: What is you next step with this project?
Sekajugo: Well at the moment I want to market it all over the world and create opportunities for the children. Canada is next on our list and I hope the dance group will be given an opportunity to be part of the healing process and take part in the activities that are organised by the Rwandan Community here in Canada. In the future I plan to form a dance company that can perform anywhere in the world on a competitive level.