Shemsa Neza – Visual illustrator on using art to drive social change

In 2016, Shemsa Neza, ventured into art, a talent she knew she had from a young age. Since then she has been using her talent to bring about social change. She had a chat with Sharon Kantengwa about her work and plans for her career.

How did you become a visual artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?

Looking back to my journey as an artist, I like to think that I always had it in me. All I needed was that wake up call to realise that I can truly do it.

As a kid I grew up seeing my elder brother sketch in his notebooks, which I also liked to do in school, drawing for other kids in their notebooks, but as I became older, life caught up with me and I kind of diverted to other things. But deep down I kept admiring art, I visited art centres and galleries, searched the internet and my passion for art grew. The end of 2016 is when I got a pencil and a paper and sketched again. From then to date, I have never stopped.

Neza Shemsa – A Force, 2020 (80 x 70cm)

What was your first work of art that really mattered to you?

It is really hard to mention just one piece because every piece has its own story and they all matter. But to mention one, there is this art work I did in 2018 titled “Highs and Lows” that touched me in a way. In this life, we all have our highs and our lows and perhaps without the lows the highs can not be reached. What I find most important is to know how to balance these two, not to let the lows break you, and also remember where you came from when you are on your highs.

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How clinical psychologist Cindi Cassady uses art therapy to treat Ndera’s trauma patients

Cindi Cassady, a U.S national, has been living and working in Rwanda as a clinical psychologist at the Ikizere Centre, Ndera Hospital. She has also been doing private practice, and as an artist herself, she introduced art therapy both for the children and adults seeking psychological therapy in Rwanda. She shares her experience in using art to transform people’s lives.

How and when did you start linking art and your therapy practice?

For about 15 years I used art therapy for children and I saw that it was really effective in helping them express their feelings. Sometimes children don’t have the verbal skills to express with words how they are feeling, so art is a good medium for them to express themselves.

I took art certification courses because you have to interpret the meaning, the use of colours and placement on the page of the drawing. That is the technical psychological part, but sometimes people think they have to be artists to do therapy but that is not true.

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Uwase on using art to empower women

Crista Uwase is a collage artist using paper from magazines as a medium to create meaningful art. Her artwork is mainly aimed at empowering women to address their challenges, including misrepresentation in the arts industry.

Crista Uwase is a collage artist using paper from magazines as a medium to create meaningful art. Her artwork is mainly aimed at empowering women to address their challenges, including misrepresentation in the arts industry. The 29-year-old had a chat with Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa on what art means to her and how she is using it to change women’s lives.

collage piece ‘Umugore Wihenda Yitwa Bantazurusyo’
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Why Kamikazi is referred to as ‘the girl in art’

The first time I met Hortance Kamikazi Umugwaneza was at a premiere of a documentary on Rwandan contemporary art by David Helft at Umubano Hotel in Kigali. She, along with other artists, exhibited their pieces too.

The first time I met Hortance Kamikazi Umugwaneza was at a premiere of a documentary on Rwandan contemporary art by David Helft at Umubano Hotel in Kigali. She, along with other artists, exhibited their pieces too.

The 20-year-old soft spoken and reserved lady is determined to create a name for herself in the art industry.

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Kamikazi’s mixed media exhibition

At Yego Arts Centre, 19-year-old Hortance Kamikazi exhibits her collection titled Renaissance. Female artists in Rwanda are so rare that some visitors doubt that the work is hers. Some of her paintings were featured at this year’s Kigali Up Music Festival.

Kamikazi creates mixed media pieces depicting life’s experiences. Using pieces of tree bark, wood, acrylic paints, metallic dust and metals, she weaves poetic lines.

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