Imigongo arts – Past, present, and future

During the PPPF project fieldwork in Rwanda from 20–25 May 2023, a group of primarily young female participants explored imigongo art to portray their life stories and share their perspectives on their future aspirations and gender equality. Through this traditional art form, the young people illustrated their views on the past, present, and future, which has resulted in powerful imigongo artworks. See Imigongo artworks created by PPPF young female participants in Rwanda.

PPPF artist facilitators presenting the imigongo artworks / UNM

Imigongo artworks:

PPPF participants used the imagery of a tree without roots or branches to symbolise isolation or disconnection. Typically, trees represent growth, strength, and connection to nature. In contrast, a tree without roots or branches represents a sense of alienation and disconnection from one’s origins or growth.

The picture illustrates the proverb “NTA NKOKO KAZI IBIKA ISAAKE IHARI,” means “there is no hen that can cluck when a rooster is around” which implies that women should not assert themselves when men are present. However, PPPF participants strongly disagree with this proverb as it perpetuates gender inequality and discrimination by limiting women’s opportunities to contribute and participate in various sectors. 

An umbrella serves as a powerful symbol of support and empathy for individuals facing similar challenges. Cultivating self-love helps foster resilience and acts as a protective shield against the damaging effects of low self-esteem. Just like a reliable umbrella, good friends offer support and comfort during life’s turbulent times.

This is a reflection by young women who participated in the PPPF project on the proverb “AKABURA NIKABONEKE N’INYINA W’UMUNTU.” This means that no one can replace a mother once she’s lost and that a mother’s love is unconditional. 15 participants recognised this saying from their mothers. They believe in the truth of this proverb from the past and have a strong belief in its relevance for the present and the future.

PPPF participants envisioned a bright future through their hopes, dreams, and values, and this was shown through drawings like dreaming of being in bright places or gardens, wearing a crown as a queen, being a strong woman who inspires and empowers others, and being a good researcher and astronomer, among others. 

PPPF participants illustrated their futures as beautiful flowers, representing the variety of experiences and emotions that make up their journey. “Like the dew on my flower, each encounter adds a sparkle to my story. I am shaped by the winds of change. I am evolving and adapting, transforming into the resilience that every flower has. This is the vision I have for my future.” 

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