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In Conversation

Discover Sylvestre Nsengimana’s Healing Odyssey in His Debut Poetry Collection

Sylvestre Nsengimana is a Rwandan professional poet, author, actor, playwright, and producer. Born in 1993, he graduated from the University of Rwanda in 2016.

Sylvestre’s vision as a performing artist is to see a burgeoning industry where young performers have opportunities to express their talents, collaborate with professional artists, and use art as a tool for social change. This vision sprouted from his childhood dream, which inspired him to found his own company, known as ‘UMUT Arts,’ in January 2018. It was established with a mission to educate, entertain, and empower youth to believe in their capabilities through performing arts while also using the platform as a tool for mental health awareness.

Sylvestre initiated the Rwanda Theater Festival, an annual event using the UMUT Arts platform. He has attended forums and workshops such as ‘Writing Theater for Young Audiences’ by Unga Klara (Sweden) in 2020, Film Production and Management by UNESCO, a cultural management program by Africalia Belgium in 2021, and another one by the African Management Institute (AMI) in 2021. In 2022, he participated in the ecological project “OU ATTERRIR” by Theatre de La Poudrerie (France). Additionally, he received recognition as one of the 100 global artist change-makers from Artlink Switzerland.

In this dialogue, he is joined by Rwandan writer and translator, Lise Nova Berwadushime.

Lise: Thank you so much for joining me, Sylvestre. I have read ‘The Journey,’ your poetry collection, and it really took me on a trip to different rooms you created inside of it. Can you tell us what inspired the book?

Sylvestre: Thank you for showing your interest in my book. Ever since I was young, I always wanted to write books. I wrote a number of texts when I was in primary and secondary schools, identified as short stories, poems, and song verses, but I never knew what that meant. When I joined the University of Rwanda and met fellow artists, I understood my artistic practice, and I decided to share my life experience through storytelling. The inspiration to create a poetry collection came in 2019. I realised that I had written many poems, and they had made me a better person by healing my wounds. I decided to share with others what I had learned.

Lise: Interesting! I’ve heard that some writers struggle to find titles for their books or poems.How did you come up with yours?

Sylvestre: The title was easy for me to find! I came up with it before even completing the book. The idea was simply to share the experience of my journey, so I chose a summary title, ‘The Journey.’ It represents my journey to healing or my journey in this life.

Lise: Some of my favourite poems in your book include Paint Your Life, Nyobora Ku Idembe, and Higama Nguhige. What is your favourite?

Sylvestre: You must really like Nyobora Ku Idembe! Anyway, I don’t have a specific favourite poem in my book. Every poem is special to me because it came from deep within my spirit and has a unique story behind it. All the poems are my favourites!

Sylvestre Nsengimana reading ‘The Journey.’

Lise: I see. I can tell that your poems were written with vulnerability and honesty. Weren’t you afraid of exposing yourself to the world?

Sylvestre: Of course, I was afraid to share some of my poems. Like many individuals, I was nervous about revealing my personal stories. But I challenged myself and learned from my first experience performing a poem. I was afraid to share my vulnerability with strangers, but I ended up performing, and since then, I’ve become a professional performer. Sometimes we learn and grow when we expose our vulnerability.

Lise: Wow, I love that! “Sometimes we learn and grow when we expose our vulnerability.” Tell me, what do you want your readers to feel when reading your book?

Sylvestre: I want my readers to reflect on their life journeys while reading my book. I want them to connect with my soul and deeply feel every piece I wrote as they learn a new way to deal with what they’re going through. I want them to discover new approaches to life.

Sylvestre Nsengimana meditating.

Lise: Sure. In case you didn’t know, your poems can be used as a meditation guide (winks). Now tell me, do you plan on publishing other poetry books? What’s your next creative or artistic move?

Sylvestre: I’m working on my second book, which is a combination of poetry and prose! I’m also working on my new theater productions, film scripts, and growing my performing arts company.

Lise: Wow! We should really expect a bomb! Godspeed! Lastly, can you tell me about your experience as a self-published writer and the feedback you have received so far on your book?

Sylvestre: Being a self-published writer is not easy. You spend more. By more, I mean energy, time, and money. Stores do not easily welcome your products. The good news is that it is worth the sweat. At the end of the day, you ‘come’ and it’s a pleasure to realise your dream. The feedback has been constructive so far. Readers tell me that my poems have helped them to face life’s difficulties. About money, I have recouped the investment I made in my book.

Lise: That is amazing. Thank you so much, and good luck in your future personal and artistic endeavors.

Sylvestre: Thank you for having me.

To read Sylvestre’s ‘The Journey,’ you can can contact the author directly at +250787192357 or buy it on Amazon.

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