Idi Basengo grew up as an orphan in post-genocide Rwanda.
“The only memory that I have of my mother is only all those drawings that I was doing in my childhood,” he explained. “So, I started creating artwork that has the ability to educate people.”
Basengo joined Envision Rwanda, an arts collective in the capital city of Kigali where local creatives use artistic expression as a tool to heal old wounds and showcase Rwanda's beauty. He developed his own artistic style, calling it “Basengoism,” a combination of realism and abstract art.
Basengo and other emerging Rwandan artists are showcasing their work in New York City at “Rwanda Retold,” an exhibit featuring Rwandan artists trying to change the reputation of their country 25 years after the genocide.
As many as 800,00 Rwandans, mostly from the minority Tutsi community, were killed over the span of 100 days from April to July 1994. Roughly 400,000 Rwandan children lost one of both of their parents as a result of the genocide.
“It’s amazing because I am not able, after 25 years, to share my story,” author and entrepreneur Celine Uwineza explained. “My mom had to prepare us to die. She told us a prayer, and she said, ‘My children, Tutsis are being killed, and we might be killed, as well. But don’t worry, we will be together when we die and we’ll go to heaven.’”
Uwineza lost her mother, siblings, and many extended family members during the genocide. She published a book called “Untamed: Beyond Freedom” about her past and path to healing. She is one of many artists in the exhibit showcasing their past through art and how it affects the present.