Kwiz-Era: The artist behind Rwanda's #Kwibuka paintings

Alex Kwizera (Kwiz-Era) is the artist behind the popular #Kwibuka paintings that have circulated Social Media sites over the past three years. This is especially during Rwanda’s 100 days Commemoration period of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi from April 7 to July 4. 

Known by his stage name; Kwiz-Era, his work is a reflection of his passion for art which is a combination of expressionism and realism. He is a painter, an illustrator and an expressionist with a niche for style that is ‘inspired by the human anatomy in relation to body language and facial expressions.’ He tells stories through people's expressions and body language as depicted in his painting. 

“This work has tremendous growth, just as Rwanda does. It has three stages that have evolved through the years.” ~ Alex Kwizera

Alex Kwizera, an artist who uses expressionism and realism to portray his work. (Courtesy Photo)

He said that he “works around several themes such as resilience, emancipation, freedom, human rights, love, hate, life and death, metaphysics and philosophy to convey people’s messages.” It is with this in mind that he decided to create paintings that relate with the Kwibuka flame. 

The kinyarwanda word Kwibuka, means to remember and “the Kwibuka flame symbolises remembrance as well as the resilience and courage of Rwandans over the past 23 years” - Kwibuka

Three years ago, Kwizera started working on a series of paintings that have evolved into an expression of the growth that Rwanda is despite its painful past. The paintings carry a surreal depiction of resilience, hope, growth and patriotism.

“This work has tremendous growth, just as Rwanda does. It has three stages that have evolved through the years,” Kwizera said. 

For each painting, Kwizera shares the process that influenced the images that he created. They all have a similar theme, yet they are so different in expression.

Painting #1: #Kwibuka21 was created in 2015

“This is a flame (urumuri) that symbolises those innocent souls that perished as victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is solemn. It is of blood and tears. It is of fire and turmoil. It is this that is a reminder of our history.”

Painting #2: #Kwibuka22 was created in 2016

“More growth [takes place]. The old man is an indication of those survivors that have lived to witness these events. They continue to teach the next generations to remember their past, to partner and renew that vow that they have made for never shall there be anything more that will separate Rwandans. All are Rwandans. The mother with a smile and child on her back, symbolises the protected future for the next generation that is made of hope and grace.” 

Painting #3: #Kwibuka23 was created in 2017

“Continuing to grow, in infrastructure, good governance and the promotion of responsibility in humanity and livelihood. A true justification that when united, no matter how small a state is, you can achieve greatness. Small is Beautiful. Africa’s possibility is the world’s opportunity. Rwanda has reached the top and continues to inspire the rest of the world through tremendous growth and development. Thanks to President Paul Kagame!

Growing up, Kwizera always wanted to be an artist even though it made him feel like a ‘misfit’. Yet, he knows that ‘he was born to be creative.’ Kwizera is a Ugandan-born artist of Rwandan origin and has studied Fine Art from the Margaret Trowell School of Art and Design, Makerere University from August 2007-May 2010.

All Photos and Paintings: By @kwiz_era


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