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Roots of Faith art show, sale in Sharpsburg to aid Rwandan artist

| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 1:57 p.m.
Silas Bagambiki with his paintings in Rwanda.
Silas Bagambiki with his paintings in Rwanda.

Growing up in the African country of Rwanda, artist Silas Bagambiki would use whatever he could as his medium, often creating art using just sticks and mud.

Bagambiki soon escalated to using flowers, fruits and vegetables as his paint and stretched his own canvases out of curtains purchased at local markets. But it was at a school run by the nonprofit Mustard Seed Project where he started to realize his talent.

“He's basically self-taught and very creative,” said board director of the Mustard Seed Project, Joyce Wingett. “He can survive on very little food, but what makes him happy is if he can paint.”

Roots of Faith Director Kathleen Lipinski in Sharpsburg heard his story and fell in love with his work. Roots of Faith will host an informal art gallery Saturday to highlight Bagambiki's talent, displaying more than a dozen of his paintings for sale at its Main Street location.

“When we heard his story, we met with him a few times and purchased one of his paintings to support him,” the director of the nonprofit said. “Soon after, we fell in love with his work and thought we should hold something here to show it.”

Bagambiki, who in his mid-20s, often uses multiple canvases to create one large image. His artwork features animals, flowers and African nature in radiant colors.

“Our mission is to bring artwork to our community that might not be accessible otherwise,” Lipinski said. “We're opening his art to the community and telling this young man's story.”

After becoming a part of the Mustard Seed Project and meeting Executive Director Robert Dwyer, Bagambiki has been bringing and sending his work to the United States since the early 2000s. Dwyer said since he met Bagambiki in 2001, he has become a father figure to him, helping him sell his work and make a living. Bagambiki lost his parents in the 1990s in the Rwadan genocide committed during the country's civil war.

“After the genocide, both of his parents are gone and he grew up in the home of his brother,” Dwyer said. “He's a really happy guy for all that he's been through.”

With the money he receives from this show and selling individual pieces, Bagambiki is saving to buy a pig farm to support him and his family, Dwyer said.

“He's very self-sufficient and has been since I met the young man,” Dwyer said.

Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.

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