Introducing Me: Angela, the artist


Drawing has been one of the best parts of my life ever since I could hold a pencil.

I started drawing at a young age, but not continually. I remember helping a teacher at school make cards for her class, for the Christmas holidays. However, as a child, Mom didn’t encourage me to draw because she thought drawing would distract me from paying attention in class. She wanted me to concentrate on my studies. Then studies replaced drawing and my art was put aside. But I always knew that time would come when I could dedicate much more time to it. Because I’ve always believed that such gifts are given to us like seeds to water and nourish them and to let them grow. 

I graduated from college, in Feb 2017 (thank heavens). However, I didn’t want to apply for a job then. Even though I didn’t want to, I couldn’t apply anywhere without licensure. The process consists of sitting for a series of exams and because of that, I had no intention of sitting for another exam any time soon.

Speaking of jobs, today the job market is tough. And too tight. Businesses are too volatile and complex. Jobs that once took a bachelor’s degree, now take a master’s. Then there are young students, working hard and studying for a degree that may not be helpful for finding work. Thus, debt-strapped students wallow in student loans. For some job offers, experience is one of the requirements. 3 years experience or even 5 years experience. Hehe. Yet, as a graduate, one has limited quantity of experience. Sometimes if you’re lucky to get a job, the job is in a rural location with very little potential for growth. Yet one has big city dreams. It is a struggle, and it is (very) hard to remain positive. 

Anyways, since I’m done with school (at least for now) it was a perfect opportunity for me to commit myself to reviving my art. And now I have my mother’s and father’s full support and encouragement. It wasn’t until about the time my best friend was getting married (four months ago) that I began to revive my God-given gift again. I started by thinking of a wedding gift to give her. I wanted to give her something unique. Something made specially for her, and only her. Something that had meaning beyond any words could express. Something that would make pleasurable, vivid memories. Picking up a pencil and starting drawing after a 20-years stop was hard. So, that’s when I started to make decorative art. With the help of a carpenter who made a frame for me, I made a wedding gift for her. 

For another friend’s wedding, I made him also a wedding gift.

And since then, I’ve been drawing though not frequently. For now, the very reason I draw is because I can. I draw because I need to. Because it is fun and fulfilling. It’s a passion that flows strongest in me. It’s like a force that can’t be stopped. It’s something beyond explanation. My natural gift is generated from creative passion. Spending hours on a drawing gives me a real sense of accomplishment once it’s done. 

Claire & Placide

H.E. Paul Kagame

I feel so great when I see my drawings. It is so satisfying. I feel the same with my art pieces. I could spend hours staring at an art piece that I made. My life wouldn’t be the same without it. 

I have wanted to be an artist, for as long as I can remember. Maybe my name will never be in lights or no pictures will be taken of me on any red carpet but I have a dream to do art professionally, not just as an amateur. I want to use the God-given gift to the fullest possible extent to make the world a better place in some way. And I hope my work brings joy to people.

I’m still on the discovery path, exploring many subjects…painting, weaving, calligraphy, collage making. For now, the particular kind of art I’m inclined to do is decorative art. Drawing is relaxing, for the most part. However, it can be challenging and frustrating at times. So I do decorative art because it’s a lot easier (for me) to do than drawing. And I feel it is one of the best means of expressing myself. Few weeks ago, I also began taking classes for (bamboo) weaving. It wouldn’t hurt if I also made some bamboo handicrafts. However, I don’t intend to stop drawing because I want to be an expert in drawing and the only way to get better is to so it consistently.

Even though this is the beginning of my art career, I already feel that relief inside that I am doing what I love doing.

Child of the technologically challenged

​My folks are a hilarious pair. My Dad is always telling us funny stories and cracking jokes. He’s always been a funny guy. I love when they are arguing, like siblings. And when it comes to technology, they are even more funnier. And more stressing.

How do I send a message to someone without everyone else seeing it?

Who are all of these people in my Facebook?

How do you know if someone has read the email you sent them?

Why are my contacts in different colors? See? This one is in red, this one is in purple, this is in green…

Since I’m the one living with them, I’m always the one they call when they need help with a phone problem. I may know what downloading means or how to install an app, but there are some things that are a bit much for me. I’m interested in tech and stuff, but I know my limits. However, because I know some vaguely tech-related stuff, they seem to forget that I studied Biomedical Sciences and think that I pursued ICT. It’s like they think that I was born holding an electronic gadget. Some things they ask me about/to fix are too far beyond my own abilities (and that’s when I run to uncle Google for help). Because there’s a world of difference between figuring out how to install a new app on my phone and resetting mom’s phone, screwing up, and depriving her of communication entirely. 

Well, most of the time, I feel more than a little obligated, since it is me that introduced them to these things in the first place. And make no mistake, I don’t mind helping them. However, I think it would be better if they learned a few skills of their own, rather than me doing all the work for them. So, I try to bring them into the technical age without frying their brains. Though it’s good, it’s a bit hard. Because they always forget.

In the past (when I was still at school) when Dad needed help with a phone problem (like updating WhatsApp), I’d help him with detailed steps. I’d provide him with written instructions. A tutorial. Except that he lost them every time. Even so, Dad seems a bit more interested than Mom. He reads news online, has a Facebook account, has learned how to download videos…he tries to keep up with the online world. 

My mom? She is probably never going to catch up with technology. Like never. Till date, she has a hard time composing a text on her phone. And when she does manage, it’s mostly a no-spacing-no-punctuation-mark type of message. The type of message you read like…

Facebook? Unknown concept to her. WhatsApp? Oh please! To take a photo, she forgets and accidentally changes to video. Or she moves the camera when she takes photos so that they come out blurry. Or when she takes videos, she forgets to save them and when she tries to show them to us, there aren’t any. Then she remembers that she forgot to save them and it makes me laugh a lot. 

And the best part is always her questions…

Why are these words (notifications) moving across my screen?

Why is my battery draining so fast?

Where did my airtime go?

Is it possible to send a message to multiple people?

Do I have a Facebook account?

Well, it’s not that she can’t learn, it’s just that she’s never been really interested. It’s not that important to her. So, I always remember who I’m dealing with. 
Honestly, I think it’s cool when I can teach them something new. When they achieve something little it makes me so proud of them. I count it as a great achievement that I got Mom to shoot a video and take pictures (during the convention), before she went back to her clueless life.

Dear INES, We Are Officially Over

2011 is the year I got into INES, a place that I would quickly learn to loathe.

I heard about INES Ruhengeri from my best friend. The small school in the middle of nowhere, Musanze, didn’t sound so appealing at first, until I learned they had a Biotechnology program. Oh, and it was run by Catholic Fathers who are known to be serious & committed when it comes to education. Decision made! Boy, I was in for a big surprise!

Within minutes of being there, I could feel the rot beginning to set in. The first thing that hit me was its uniquely depressing appearance.

To begin, there was a maze of things to figure out – who to get to know, where to go for this or that. A lot of my energy went into trying to make sense of the new environment. It felt overwhelming to start over in a new place with temperatures that were uncomfortably low. Also, coping with new people took me enormous energy.
As such, I suffered with my eating. I’d struggle to eat my meals. And on several occasions, I was physically sick. Even on the shortest of days, when I only had to be in class for a morning lecture, I’d go back to my place feeling physically and mentally drained, exhausted. My weight suffered greatly. I was scared and confused as to why this was happening because I’d never previously had a problem with my eating. Well, I was a picky eater but nothing more sinister than that.

At times I felt suffocated. I spent most of the time at my place, with little to do but read, watch movies and sleep. Though I tried, I never felt as though I belonged. My place (read: ghetto), was my safe haven.

There were days when I was so tired that I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to class. Those mornings when the alarm went off and I would lay in bed thinking to myself “do I really need an education?” All I wanted to do was sleep in or watch movies. But with my imminent future constantly on my mind, I couldn’t afford to sit on my butt, watching movies, while my classmates were studying.

Well, sometimes I did. If I woke up (feeling lazy) and felt like I didn’t want to go to class, then I didn’t go. There was no one around to force me to study, to go to class, or to get a good night’s sleep. However, to stay productive, I had to know how to control myself…I had to maintain my own schedule and develop my own study habits. So, generally in the days approaching exam time, I had to catch up with the rest of the class. Those were the times when I’d lots of work that even thinking about sleeping was a luxury. I would be pushing past midnight reading. On such occasions, it was hard to take a night off, even when my mental health depended on it. When my body said enough is enough and finally gave in, I would try to take a 20-minute nap but wake up 8 hours later confused as f*ck. 

It takes enormous self-control to go through the pressure of college life.
Generally, the pressures are financial problems and a lot of work to do. Though, personally I didn’t have any financial problems.

College life for me has been a series of the worst possible scenarios I could come in and during my final year, INES became a hellhole. The experience that can be deemed the worst would be when we had to submit our dissertations. After getting  the signature from my supervisor, I went to submit the dissertation only to find that 3 other different guys had to first review it before submission to the department. I was like…

It was like they took immense pleasure in tossing us around and making us wait. I always left the place swearing all the cuss words that I knew.

And I suppose this is what eventually brought about the problems INES is suffering from now, and what will probably be its downfall. INES Ruhengeri is a very bad university in terms of anything that management/administration should be really be judged on. It is terribly run. But things need to be tightened up, standards need to be improved. 

INES is full of people who really want to be there…like those students who ask a question that requires a 30-minute explanation, 6 minutes before the class ends. Seriously? And it always has to be to that professor who can’t leave a question unanswered. Those were the students who had obviously bought into a badly sold dream of bettering themselves and, at times, it was horrible to watch – knowing that they were doing five times as much work as me, but somehow we were still drifting along in the same leaky boat. Hehe. INES is an institution that needs a serious overhaul, but is instead potentially ruining the lives of thousands of people. 

Some people think being a student is easy. But being a student (especially being a student at INES) has never been easy. As with every struggle, studying calls for the grace of God. And the encouragement of friends and family.

College life, though it was fun at times, but make no mistake, it was exhausting. However, it has helped me grow as an individual.

The step into the real world is a scary one. Finding a job is horrifying because the job market is tough, now. It’s a real struggle and it’s hard to remain positive. Jobs that once took an associate’s degree now take a master’s, and debt-strapped students wallow in student loans. And there are those who are studying for a degree that may not be very helpful (at all) for finding work.

Graduation is glowing in all its golden glory a few days away. I’m super glad I’m finally done with INES… With all that’s cost me, I’ll not miss INES or anything that has to do with it. And I’ll not miss being a student any time soon.

Sincerely,
The student who won’t miss you.

Sent with love

My dearest love,

Every morning (that comes too early, wondering why, yet again, our time together has been cut short) I hit the snooze button an extra 6 times because I just don’t want to leave you. 

I know that there was a time in my life when I used to take you for granted. That time when I used to just expect you to be there for me, without giving you any appreciation. That time when you came second to dozens of others and it might have made you feel completely worthless. How could I have done that to you, my love? It was a mistake. A terrible mistake that made me wonder silently if I’m not probably the most terrible person alive? For that, I am really ashamed and I apologize. I didn’t know any better. My love, one thing I can assure you is that I will never take you for granted again. Never.

I know we’ve been together long enough for you to see that you’re the longest relationship I’ve ever had (and I hope we’ll be together forever). As we’re going through a rough patch right now, I know that you’re feeling the pangs of our separation too. They say that every relationship goes through ups and downs. Maybe you’re having your revenge for all of those times when I treated you wrong. But, my love, can’t we let bygones be bygones and find a way to come together again? Because I haven’t given up hope that we’ll find our way back to each other again. And I hope that you haven’t either. We need more time together to make our relationship work.

I never treated you right before. Sometimes, you even agreed to things simply in order to keep the peace. Perhaps love is truly blind. However, I can assure you that I am a changed woman now. 

Now, I know that you deserve the best. I really do. If I could, I would just take you with me everywhere. Sadly, the reality is that it’s not possible but I hope you realize that it’s the thought that counts. My love, just so you know, I might be a 1000 miles away but you’re the first thing on my mind.

From now on, I promise, to always give you the respect and love that you are due.

Because really, my dear Bed, I miss you.

Comfortably and exhaustedly yours,

One very sleepy girl

Kazungu

His name is Kazungu. He’s an alcoholic. The last time he was sober was in 2004, when he made a deal with his sister. A deal not to drink for a week. Not even lick a drop off the bottle lid. The reward was 70,000 Rwandan Francs. That was 10,000 Rwandan Francs for each day he was sober. The deal was to collect the whole sum after the week. But for how long could he be sober?
He was trying really hard not to drink, counting off every day until he could get his money and get wasted, again. Before the deal, he was never sober for a very long time. Except maybe in the womb. But who knows? He probably was drunken there too. He’s been drinking for as long as he can remember. The deal was meant to be a reminder on why he had to quit hurting his wife and children. If he could make it to a week, then he could make it to 2 weeks, then a month, then 2 months and so on. Till when he was sober.

Then a week later, he walks in with his coat slung over his shoulder, staggered over to the table, smiled slightly and said “Mwiriwe”

Kazungu is a binge drinker who seems to have a death-wish. He drinks morning, noon and night. He prefers the feeling that he gets from drinking to the negative consequences that follow it. His drinking has been affecting his family…messing, spending, coming home drunk and verbally abusing them…Life with Kazungu is unsettling. Most of the times, they don’t know what kind of drama will be waiting for them when he comes home stumbling through the door. His affair with alcohol is unrelenting. He’s become an unbearable drunk. Every moment is an uphill struggle.

When he works, all his money is spent on booze. He doesn’t contribute anything.

“If you want to destroy your life with alcohol, fine. Go right ahead, but…” 

“It’s my money, I’ll spend it however I please” he cuts in before his wife finishes. 

His wife, Beatrice, who does part-time jobs, is the sole bread winner of the family. The couple have 8 children. 7 girls and 1 boy. One of their daughters gave birth. That’s 11 people in their household. Beatrice does everything financially, struggling to make ends meet. Someone is sick? It’s her problem. The children need shoes? Her problem. Fieldwork? Her problem. Food is over. Her problem. And when it gets worse, Kazungu sometimes steals items from the house that he sells to get money for booze. As his wife and kids eat ubugali na dodo, he be eating some brochettes with urwagwa at the local bar. 

Beatrice has probably thought of leaving Kazungu. Been probably told to follow her heart. “You deserve better”, “You can make it on your own”, “You should grow a pair and walk out for good”. But then her heart tells her to give him one last chance, again. Her heart tells her that he can’t make it without her, bla bla bla…following her heart is what has kept her in this marriage for so long.

His son passed PLE and joined high school. He did one term but then dropped out. Because of lack of school materials. Like many low-income women, his mother is preoccupied with their survival and is unable to save towards educating them. His mother couldn’t afford to buy him books which she thought of as luxuries, yet there are 11 stomachs to feed. His father couldn’t provide his school materials. He dropped out due to the unfortunate fact that his father is an alcoholic. They have had to watch the neglect in him. They watched him drown his son’s future in a bottle of urwagwa. There have been many times in his life when he wished he’d been born into a different family… 

Few months ago, Kazungu got mysteriously sick. First, his throat became sore. Then he had difficulty swallowing and his jaws couldn’t move. He could barely down a glass of urwagwa if anything. Couldn’t even swallow a drop. He was like a fly that’s about to get splattered on a windshield. He was dead. His drinking buddies couldn’t do shit for him. He was lost in his own private hell. 

Fortunately, he was cured. He was ordered to stop drinking. He’s been sober for 2 months now. Even though his family desperately wanted him to get sober, that doesn’t guarantee that all the bad will be forgotten. That can’t fix everything that he broke. All he can do is not drink. 

So, he won’t do it today.

Already Fabulous Enough Anyway

​”Ko utashyizeho bya bindi bitukura ku munwa?” (Why didn’t you put the red thing on your lips?)

Our neighbour who’s come to see Mom, asks me. Mom, who knows the kind of girl she has for a daughter (who doesn’t even have a mirror in her room) bursts out laughing. And I credit my upbringing (mom) for my no-makeup approach.

I personally don’t like wearing make up because I’m not good at applying it. In fact, the truth is that I don’t really know how to apply make up. Here’s a story about that…

One evening I was feeling ambitious and I decided to apply some make up and take pictures. Just for fun. And by make up I mean lipstick, cause that’s all that I own (thanks to Vicki who gave it to me. Hehe). Foundation? I don’t even know what exactly that is, I have never bought it. So, I apply lipstick and take tons of silly pictures. I upload one of the photos to my whatsApp profile. At 10: 03 PM, my Dad whatsapped me saying “Kuraho iyo foto” (remove that photo)…I showed Mom the message and we had a good laugh. 

So, yeah, that’s how bad I am at applying make up.

The main reason why I don’t wear make up and have no plans of starting any soon is because I’m a lazy girl. Putting all of that on is one extra thing to do in the morning. Applying make up is sooo time-consuming. I’ve seen girls waking up an hour or two earlier so they get time for the make up session. A whole hour! Make up doesn’t make me feel as good as that extra 1 hour of sleep. So, why waste that precious time when I could use it to prolong my sleep?

To those girls, who spend hours applying make up, much respect to you. Your tireless efforts really deserve recognition.

I, on the other hand, wake up, shower, apply lotion on my body and gikotori for my face (being careful not to apply too much that would leave me shining like a diamond! Hehe), then I’m good to go. And being the lazy girl that I am, I now have dreadlocks. Faux dreadlocks. I cheated on the locking process. Hehe. I didn’t want to go through the shocking and most unpleasant part of the experience, the budding stage a.k.a the ugly stage, as my hair was starting to figure itself out. However, my dreadlocks look natural like real locks. So, with the dreadlocks I don’t stress myself brushing my hair and stuff. I just wear them down and loose or tie them at the back. 

30 minutes is the time I take to get ready. Easy! I must admit that girls who wear make up look amazing but…laziness is a lot easier.

I really don’t see make up helping me in any way. I love my natural look. Because I’m already fabulous enough anyway. Hehe.

Who Is This Even?

02:51 PM

I’m home, in my bedroom. I’m watching a movie from my PC but still bored. So, I get a piece of paper and a pencil and I start drawing…

03:41PM

I’m done. And this is the outcome…

Well, it’s not that good but at least I can still draw. I haven’t made any drawings in a while. I’m happy when I draw. And I’m pleased with this. 

Need to make more…