Many people pity and wish they could help street children, some are even scared of them. But not Jack Yakubu Nkinzingabo. He has taken to helping the children learn the art of photography while mentoring them.
He stumbled upon photography in 2009, seven years into the art and he is glad he accidentally found his passion which has now become his career.
Meet Jack Yakubu Nkinzingabo whose passion for photography came to him in a class assignment. His school director was looking for a student to help in capturing images around the school for some projects. Jack found himself volunteering to do the job despite the fact that he knew nothing about the gadget he now held in awe.
He was only 15 at the time. Two years later, he was working for different websites and newspapers in Kigali as a photojournalist- thanks to the accidental activity.
Yakubu’s motivation comes from telling the Rwandan story away from the stifling images and stories about the 1994 genocide, already in the mainstream media.
On completing high school in 2013, Yakubu decided to engage fully in photography to change the perspective of Rwanda’s story.
“I wanted to show the new images of Rwanda,” says Yakubu in an interview. “I wanted to capture the way we live, feel, dance, speak, look, walk, dress, and do our hair,” he tells the African Exponent adding that his goal was to bring out the culture and traditions of Rwanda people so as to change the view of his country.
But he has since outgrown his dream and today, he is not only rewriting the Rwandan story but also incorporating street children to help in spreading the narrative through photography.
To inspire photography in Rwanda and promote artists in the community, Yakubu started the Kwanda Art- an organization that seeks to establish a solid knowledge-base for all members and interested artists in the field of visual, multi-media and performance art.
Kwanda Art promotes activities of the Rwanda art community through exhibitions, festivals, Art-Weeks, Workshops, and Art Talks, among other initiatives.
Through the organization, Yakubu has also created an initiative which brings street children together for training and workshops on photography.
According to the Rwandan photographer, Learning for Change (Learning4Change) is his way of giving back to the community in which he grew.
"I came up with this idea because I was a street kid once. I grew up in the street,” admits Yakubu. “Those kids are my friends,” says Yakubu of the street children that he currently molds into young photographers.
He says having lived in the streets has enabled him to associate and work with the vulnerable children who many of the times are left to fend for themselves.
“They were always asking me to teach them how to take photos. So I started this, for them."
With Learning4Change, Kwanda Art has held several photography workshops with the street kids in Kigali. They have partnered with Goethe Institute in Kigali where a series of exhibitions are held.
"Kids on the streets of Kigali have very limited chances to improve their lives. The Learning4Change project aims at offering activities and workshops to the homeless kids. Through these initiatives, they will have the opportunity to learn, engage socially, and improve their situation," says Yakubu.
He notes that art is yet to be accepted in Rwanda and as such, there are very few people who come out during exhibitions. But he is glad that the trend is slowly growing and he hopes soon artists in Rwanda can earn a living from their chosen career paths.
Luckily, the photographer’s work has been exhibited abroad. His work was featured in Bamako, during an art exhibition.
Yakubu argues that the African contemporary Art is much appreciated abroad (in the US and UK) than at home. This he says has forced many artists to seek collaborations with organizations outside Africa.
Later in the year, Yakubu hopes to exhibit more of his art in America and Germany. His work is used in a number of magazines and websites. Earlier in the year, his work was featured in the Newsweek Japan. He is glad that his method of telling stories about Africa is gaining momentum and appreciation across the globe.
Image credit: Learning for Change-Facebook