Telling Rwanda’s story with an illustrator’s comic book

By Andrew. I Kazibwe

With illustration and animation, a locally less recognized venture, Mika Twizerimana Hirwa, 23, beats the odds as an emerging illustrator, whose ambition has not only seen him practicing from backdoors, but further into the local publishing industry, where he is finding his footing as a comic book author. The self-taught illustrator is one whose Art abilities were discovered in primary school shortly after he had moved to Uganda, where he accomplished primary in 2009. There he enjoyed Art lessons, “I used to draw sketch Art of comics in books,” he recalls. Returning to Rwanda, he joined secondary at St. Bernadette de Kamonyi for Ordinary level, then later accomplishing his Advanced Level of Education at Ecole Technique de Kabgayi, where he offered Motor Vehicle Mechanics. Inspired by Disney movies, where he fantasized over animations, alongside his secondary studies his journey into digital Art initially kicked off with learning Photoshop software, “I took lessons from online tutorials across YouTube,” he explains. But this was only for working around his photography passion, which he used to do. He further embarked into illustration Art, which he gradually mastered. In 2016, when he joined Akagera Motors Limited, as a Mechanic, life moved on, but with hesitance, “Even when I had a paying job, I felt like didn’t belong there,” he explains. Hirwa recalls when he took a stand, and not only left his mechanic job, but also a Motor Vehicle Mechanics scholarship, which he ditched too, since it didn’t have an Art faculty, which he desired. “My mother was a bit upset about it, but wasn’t harder on me,” he explained. He further embarked onto his journey into digital Art by experimenting on several private projects.

Though initially using a normal laptop and PC Mouse for drawing, since a Digital Tablet for this domain was unaffordable to him, he connected to friends, through which he acquired his first Wacom Tablet from Mbaza, a friend. When he joined Imagine We Rwanda, a local publication house, here he further actively ignited his skill as an illustrator to the writers. In 2017, he released first ever comic book entitled Isimbi the Inventor, a Rwandan story, told through dialogue and illustration, “I grew up reading books, but the trouble accessing comic books was worse, since they are barely on the market,” he explains. Isimbi is inspired through daily living within society, with Rwanda being the focus. Working with Imagine We Rwanda, as encouraging the publication for producing Rwandan content was also a push, “Before it all, I barely could imagine how books could locally be published, but I’ve witnessed and further been part of this, which motivated me further into the industry,” he explains The reaction was encouraging to him, which also boosted his inner skill of writing and storytelling. As an illustrator, Hirwa has worked on several books, which include; Izuba (2018) by Isaac Nkusi and Atete Rugege on New Face, New Voices, under the UN Women project. He further worked on That Child is Me by Clever Irakoze, Ysoldie and her Magical Shoes by Dominique Alonga, Rwoga among others, which have been embraced. Kami was his breakthrough comic book. A 2019 Super Hero story of a Thirteen-year old Rwandan orphan who rising up in Anatwe village embarks onto a mission of exploring life beyond on a quest of finding his parents, hence discovering super strength within. Its first issue dubbed The Power of Ancestors is one he received numerous acknowledgment from the public. Taking bold decision of embarking onto publishing doesn’t come easily. Hirwa invested RWF 1.5million into publication the book’s first edition, “I published and printed 100 copies, which I gave out for free even across my website, since I wanted more to send out a message of how Rwandans too can do this,” he explains. “It took me a month to let out the first copy, since I was so skeptical about how it will all be perceived,” he explains. Hirwa recently published the book’s second issue dubbed An Old Friend, which is also feely accessible on his website. The Artist takes the reader into graphical and interesting fantasy of a Rwandan Superhero, while he brings to life ancient Rwandan customs like dressing, architecture, hairstyles and culture. Making his works known through social Media, he has been publishing it in bits, where he releases a chapter each month, “For now am still marketing my works so as to make them known in Rwanda and beyond,” he explains. Besides illustrating stories, Hirwa hopes to venture into animation, where he hopes to further turn his creation into on screen films, something he hopes will cement the African Animation industry.

Published by Andy's Sight

A learner... Experiencing the ups and downs in all life's corners...With a passion for Media;specifically writing and Broadcasting...Still emerging... Life is the main inspiration behind these writings; through the rich experience as a teacher, and my current sojourns in Journalism; I find life, look at it through a different sight, which I share.

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