Creative Journeys: Creatives in Kigali and Birmingham

Creative Journeys: Creatives in Kigali and Birmingham

Storytelling from Bonitah, Joseph and Roxy

It may not always be in the news, but incredible creative work is happening in our communities, with young artists flexing their imaginations and craft, while acting as organisers for others from their circle. We know this! 

So, when we were offered the chance, we thought we would check what happens if instead of commissioning new work, we simply invested in what was already there, and focused on making sure the story gets told in all its glory. 

In partnership with Mashirika Performing Arts Company, we each selected an artist, paired them with a digital storyteller, and will spend June showcasing their achievements and the causes they work for. 

Recent National Youth Trends research has shown that 9 in 10 Gen Zs in the UK class themselves as creative. Follow this page to see what that means, and how these artists’ stories flow – and where they meet. Enjoy!

This project has been commissioned as part of the Birmingham 2022 Cultural Programme in partnership with our International Research & Development Funder, The British Council.


By Bonitah

During the month of June, Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company partnered with Beatfreeks – a British creative agency to embark on a journey of storytelling through a project named ‘Umudugudu’. This project is commissioned as part of the Birmingham 2022 Cultural program in collaboration with the British Council. 

The project ‘Umudugudu’ set to launch on Monday, 5th July was produced and developed by the renowned artist, Kivumbi King. Known first for his stellar spoken word performances, Kivumbi King now a big-time rapper, poet, and producer, will soon be launching the ‘Umudugudu’ music video and poem as artistic tools to explore different elements such as mental health, community, family, and the importance of personal space among many others. 

“Umudugudu to me means more than just a place I go to at the end of every day, a place that feels like home. It is the people I meet and talk to, my neighbors, my friends, my family, and most importantly myself.” shares Kivumbi 

The leading performing arts company, Mashirika embarked on a month’s journey of developing the creative practice and producing with the artist Kivumbi King. 

Talking to the Founder of Mashirika Arts and Media Company, Hope Azeda shared that Mashirika as a theatre and arts company thrives best with its community through different outreach programs we organize so bringing this project to life with the amazing storyteller, Kivumbi King was very important to us. Umudugudu was an artistic  tool to use to learn more about the different neighborhoods, the cultural backgrounds of ‘imidugudu’, and the importance of communal support and love.” 

Adding to this, Hope Azeda adds that the concept of ‘Umudugudu’ also targets to explore not just the physical state we all live in but the mental state as well.  “We want to show the importance of taking care of the conscious mind, just as much as we take care of those we are in community with.”

“This project was meant for Rwandans and beyond, in different communities to stay connected. We are honored to have collaborated with Beatfreeks and received enormous support from British Council to bring this vision to light”. said Hope Azeda. 

It’s only 4 days until the launch of this timely and phenomenal project, Kivumbi King shares that he, his video producer Eazy Cuts, and audio producer Kennyprobeats feel very exhausted from all the running, peddling, and walking through different neighborhoods as they were shooting but very are happy with how the song came out. He urges everyone to be on the lookout for this project on 5th July and mindblowing lyrics.

Three things I learned on BAIT

by Ashlee Elizabeth Lolo

2020 was arguably one of the most tumultuous years in human history. For most artists, our world was torn apart with engagements falling through, loss of income and an existential doubt about our careers in the arts world. Closer to home, I was suffering from Long Covid which significantly hindered my ability to move around and keep myself “busy”. However, amid sickness and instability, one programme in particular kept my spirits alive. 

BAIT (Birmingham Artivists in Training), an artist development project run by Beatfreeks was a huge lifeline during the pandemic and gave birth to a brand-new perspective on my role as a creative. 

Here’s three lessons I learned during my time on BAIT 2020. 

  1. The power of creative communities 

It can be an incredibly lonesome journey when perfecting your craft. Often, artists work in solitude, which can leave us feeling like lone wolves. Whilst I’ve worked with a number of artistic organisations, being a freelancer can make you feel like you’re constantly on the outside of the inner circle. On my first day with the BAIT cohort, I knew I’d found a creative family. I was surrounded by artists of all disciplines – at different stages in their journey. Marrying this with the honest, transparent atmosphere of the group, I felt like Monday evenings were a reset from the troubles of lockdown and my health recovery.

 There’s nothing quite like it – creatives sharpening one another through empowerment, poetry, and the freedom to create art on our own terms. 

  1. Reclaim your artistry from capitalism. 

At age 13, my first poem was published in an anthology. Age 16 I frantically submitted my poetry into every competition I could find. Aged 21, I received my first paid commission for a spoken word play – and yet, it was at age 25 when I realised I hadn’t written a poem for myself since I was in primary school. I adore what I do and it’s an honour to have a creative career. I have found my calling. However, if I could push a note in an envelope and deliver it to my younger self; it would say “be careful not to monetise on every word in your heart”.

As creatives, we can feel the urge to share everything we make with the world, in fear of not being seen or wanting our work to be recognised. But sometimes, it’s okay to create art for yourself. For your diary. For your personal collection. For your own personal pleasure. I was falling into the trap of only creating work when payment was available – a toxic way to think as you’ll doubt your artistic ability the moment the money dries up. You won’t always have a commission, but you will always have your art. It is a lifelong friend that can help you in all aspects of your journey.  Under the tutelage of Bohdan, Roger and the BAIT cohort, I rediscovered my reason for writing and its ability to entertain and exalt others; whilst healing and bringing joy to the self. 

  1. Power to the process

Some artists are in love with new beginnings. A new project is the equivalent of your first day at school with a fresh planner and a jam-packed pencil case. Potential is addictive. However, it is the process: the in-between-redrafting-messy-room-covered-in-plans stage that deters artists from finishing projects. Half-baked cakes. Potential withered because reality choked out the novelty of the project. I, like so many others, was caught in this cycle. It was hard to admit to myself that my corrosive fear of failure was stopping me from enjoying the development of my art.

However, being on the BAIT programme taught me the process gives birth to progress -which is more important than the outcome. Editing. Research. Feedback. Re-writing. Frustration. Consuming art that is in no way related to your current project – to provide a new perspective on your path. All of these events not only enrich your final piece (and in turn, reaching the perfection we so often strive for) but it also strengthens you as an artist – for your current piece and for projects to come. 

On the whole, BAIT gave me the chance to refocus and re-define my journey as a creative. Our weekly meetings were brimming with joy and nourishment, which I would love to recreate one day for artists who need guidance and mentorship on their road to success. 


New reads for summer 2021. ##lofivibes ##bookworm

♬ You Don’t Know – Psalm Trees

Read more National Youth Trends research here.

To get exclusive access to National Youth Trends releases (before they go public) get clued up and sign up to The DL.

Cover Image by Efe Kurnaz


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To get exclusive access to National Youth Trends releases (before they go public) get clued up and sign up to The DL.

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