THE PAINTER FROM RWANDA
Imagine being born in a country with a cleft lip without the world’s modern medical surgery capabilities to help you? Or imagine being a three-year-old child witnessing the world around you explode into unimaginable violence even an adult cannot comprehend?
Silas Bagambiki witnessed the 1994 the Rwandan genocide through vulnerable child’s eyes. Even today as you walk through the memorialized killing sites, a person can feel the pain and horror engulf you upon these hollowed grounds. The tragedy within Silas’ life also included the loss of his mother, a victim of the genocide, and the death of his father from natural causes the same year. But God had different plans for Silas, a child gifted with a talent He would slowly and beautifully blossom. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Orphaned as a child with little hope for the future, Silas lived among the “poorest of the poor” in the Gakenke District of Northwest Rwanda. Yet as a child, he delighted in playing in the mud. Not the play of a child’s mud pies, but the making of small replicas of his surroundings ~ pots, cups, cars, houses. A practice slowly inspired by a child learning to capture the beauty around him. Perhaps this spawned his love of drawing and painting in later years.
In 2001, a God-coincidence changed Silas life when chosen for attendance at the newly opened Sonrise Primary School in Musanze, formerly Ruhengeri Rwanda. Bishop John Rucyahana partnered with The Mustard Seed Project, a Non-Profit Corporation headquartered in Ambridge Pennsylvania, to build a school where Silas’ generation would not be yet another devastation within Rwanda through lack of education. But would give them concrete skills to rebuild their country. The Mustard Seed emersed itself into raising funds to provide a quality haven and education program for the orphaned, abandoned and severely disadvantaged children like Silas in the under-developed countries of Africa.
At Sonrise with some painting materials available, Silas began to display his basic artistic talent. His real talent developed with the encouragement of his teachers and fellow students. As time at Sonrise passed, Silas joined in with his teachers and classes in developing true friendships. He learned compassion and love. To Silas, Sonrise became his home. His art became a means of conveying a message of peace and love. Painting was a hobby until 2013, when friends and teachers urged him to consider art as a living for his future. Alvin Rutayisire, a friend and former classmate, praises Silas’ life outlook as “amazing. He is one guy who has always been happy with life and never took life’s blows to heart, few of us are like him.”
Silas, now a full-time painter, shares his artistic passion, capturing sense of his native Rwanda with the world.