“Disability is not inability.” A group of young people who are deaf have chosen art not only as a means of earning a living but also as a way of expressing themselves and their talents.
‘Actions speak louder than words,’ is the motto at the Kigali Deaf Art Gallery and one can tell at a glance that this is true.
Established in January 2019, Kigali Deaf Art Gallery is comprised of 11 deaf young people who were brought together by their love for art.
30-year-old Prince Nahimana, who is the founder of the company, graduated from University in 2018. With his papers at hand, he decided to put to use what he had learnt and desired to work with other young people who were deaf and give them an opportunity to work with their hands and earn a living.
Nahimana explains; "Here we work with people who are deaf. Some of the work we do includes painting which we sell to clients in Rwanda and also abroad. We also get pots from Nyanza and decorate them with beads and sell them. Most people like them and place orders for more".
With a starting capital of RWF 200,000, the Kigali Deaf Art Gallery now boasts of profits and over RWF 1M in savings, one year down the line.
According to Nahimana, their journey has not been without challenges.
"One of the challenges we face is lack of information especially about exhibitions so we miss out on a lot. There many other activities tailored for the youth but we mostly miss out on such opportunities because of lack of adequate information. At the same time, when we go for exhibitions and people realize that we are deaf, they shy away from us," He said.
Contrary to other young people who opt to wait for white-collar jobs, Frida Umutoni chose to join her peers at the Kigali Deaf Art Gallery to learn a new skill and also earn some money.
"I opted not to sit at home as I see many other young people do after completing their studies. I chose to come here and learn new skills. I do beadwork and make bracelets, necklaces and earrings which we sell and earn a decent living," Umutoni told RBA.
Jean Damascene Bizimana, who doubles up as the spokesperson and the marketer for the Kigali Deaf Art Gallery. Even though he is also deaf, he helps the company market their products and communicate with clients.
"They do the art but mostly, they do not know where and how to market it, how to call and communicate with the clients so that’s where I come in. I help them with marketing. Most of the deaf people just sit at home because they fear to knock on doors of opportunity because of their limitation in communication. But I advocate for them and also encourage them to value themselves because if they don’t, nobody will," Bizimana said.
According to Bizimana, society should not stigmatize the deaf people because they fully understand the happenings around them.
"Our ears do not hear, but our mind is very sharp. To hear, we use our eyes and to speak, we use our hands, and we understand the different languages. So people should change their perception of us," Bizimana added.
Just like any other able-bodied person, the deaf have their hobbies and for PRINCE NAHIMANA, swimming does the trick after a long day of hard work, a hobby he says helps him relax and inspires new ideas for his artwork.
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