Ghislain Irakoze

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Chief Curator
Kigali Green Gallery

Rwanda

Ghislain (he/him) is an environmental advocate leveraging art to spearhead youth-led environmental and sustainability awareness and education.

How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities?

Portraits of endangered and extinct species displayed in Kigali Green Gallery. Photo credit: Kigali Green Gallery I founded Kigali Green Gallery (KGG), a sustainability art centre that is leveraging art to spearhead environmental education in Rwanda. KGG aspires to reconnect Africa with extinct and endangered species, artistically counting the extinction and endangered stories. Using eco-friendly materials (canvas and boards) made from recycled banana trunks, KGG tells the stories of 100 extinct and endangered African animal or plant species. Founded by young people, KGG is youth-centered. We involved 10 young artists in residency to develop 100 paintings while promoting environmentally sustainable artistic design. One hundred artworks that are in KGG display 100 species (25 plants and 75 animals) that have geographical roots in Rwanda and all over Africa. Besides casual visits that we extend to communities, we also travelled to showcase the artwork in different remote areas that can’t visit the gallery. So far, we have conducted 10 showcase events, displaying the paintings in different communities in Rwanda and reaching over 1,000 people. KGG aims to provide a platform for Rwandans to learn about biodiversity conservation issues and strengthen their conservation efforts.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Gallery Visitors enjoy a narrative descriptive story accompanying each portrait of endangered and extinct species. Photo credit: Kigali Green Gallery I started my environmental advocacy journey back in 2017, inspired by my best friend who survived a garbage landslide accident. I started volunteering with several environmental organizations at the grassroots level. I launched the Recycle for Environment Campaign and provided environmental education for over 120 young people, while emphasising a practical aspect of repurposing plastic waste into creative materials. Besides developing a conscious network of young environmental leaders, the campaign saw over two tons of plastic waste diverted from landfills through creative repurposing. The campaign results inspired me to launch Wastezon, a social enterprise that leverages digital technology to facilitate the transaction of waste materials between consumers and recyclers. So far over 500 tons of waste material have been transacted on our platform.

Now more than ever, we need environmental literacy if we are to gauge the community's interest in fighting climate change and promoting sustainability. I found that the arts are among the untapped communication mediums to relay environmental education. Founding KGG has been one of the key achievements in my life, as I see it as a tool that can help in fighting environmental illiteracy.

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ME

Who keeps you hopeful for the future?

My fellow young generation. We are already taking action and putting more effort to shape a better future, and that makes me hopeful and drives me to be part of that transformational change we desire.

What’s a passion project of yours outside of your work?

Travelling. I have so far visited over 25 countries and four continents. Travelling widens my thinking and exposes me to new insights while having fun. While I try to offset my travel carbon footprint, I believe I need to adopt more eco-friendly travelling methods.

What’s your favorite food to celebrate with?

Hawaiian Pizza. I like it so much that I add more pineapples. Till now, I don’t understand why it's so controversial to many people.

Do you prefer sunrise, sunset, midday, or midnight?

Sunrise. Dubbed the land of the thousand hills, my country has a lot of mountains. It’s always revitalizing to see the sun rising on this beautiful mountain. To me, it symbolizes renewal as it ushers a new day to improve ourselves.