Burundi: Refugee Finds His Home Away From Home

Burundian visual artist Christian Mbanza aka Chris Schwagga held a solo exhibition at Kigali's Innovation Village last month. Although he grew in Congo, he now lives in Rwanda.

Schwagga's exhibition is titled Refuge, a reflection of his refugee status and paying homage to his adopted country.

"Refuge is a person, a moment, a journey, a place both mental and physical. It is peace, calm, safety. A home far from home, a home inside home. My circumstances had me wondering about the relation between humans and their refuge and how that connection - good or bad - shapes or influences how they deal with situations," Schwagga said.

He worked alongside his longtime collaborator Cedric Mizero, who designed the costumes for the photographs in the exhibition.

The exhibition and art installation are in black and white motifs. There are motorcycle helmets and Daft Punk-inspired suits with a black motorcycle helmet with a golden cockscomb.

One of the more interesting installations is of two white motorcycle helmets connected to a computer motherboard on a black background. The artist says it reflects people in a network connected through technology.

Another notable installation is one with a black helmet encircled with a pile of charcoal, presented alongside a white helmet encircled with broken glass pieces.

The most striking photo in the exhibition is one of a model wearing multi-coloured neon polythene clothes, sandals and a carrier bag and a helmet, with a white background. This is placed alongside an installation of the same helmet and sandals.

Schwagga uses motorcycle helmets to symbolise refuge or protection. Every piece has a story behind it.

"This exhibition is dedicated to Rwanda and its amazing people for making this journey away from home feel like home. The Land of a Thousands Hills has been my refuge, it has challenged me and I have grown both personally and professionally. I am infinitely grateful," Schwagga said.

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