The Drawing That Turned an Artist Into an International Student

One Rwandan art student’s journey to Kent State

Sketching, drawing, doodling. For some, these activities occupy us in class or in a meeting. But for Kizito Nkundamahoro, his artistic hobby evolved into a passion that drew an amazing opportunity at Kent State University.

Kizito Nkundamahoro

Growing up in Rwanda, Nkundamahoro had always loved drawing. In September 2020, Nkundamahoro drew a portrait using colored pencils of the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, holding his first grandchild. Nkundamahoro then posted the image on social media.  

“I decided to draw it because it was something special. When I posted it on my social media, it was like a miracle,” Nkundamahoro said.  

On Twitter, Nkundamahoro’s drawing was shared and liked until it reached Paul Kagame’s daughter, Ange Kagame, who retweeted the portrait, asking for help identifying the artist. Nkundamahoro was named. He was also stunned, noting that receiving this online affirmation was amazing.   

Kizito Nkundamahoro Drawing of President Kagame

“In January 2023, I drew another photo of his excellence with the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, and they were holding their second grandchild,” Nkundamahoro said. While he was pleased with the recognition of the first portrait, “I drew it with little expectations of them seeing it,” Nkundamahoro added.  

Kizito Nkundamahoro Drawing 2

Three weeks later, Nkundamahoro received an unexpected call from the first family’s security.  

“The president wanted to offer me something, anything to support me,” Nkundamahoro said.  

Nkundamahoro said that he wanted to improve his art skills and receive a college education. Nkundamahoro gave the first family a list of four universities. Kent State was at the top of the list.  

"I was full of joy. It was like a dream come true.”

“I researched many schools, and they chose Kent State for me. I didn’t know much about the university in the United States,” Nkundamahoro said. “But I was full of joy. It was like a dream come true.”  

Now a freshman studio arts major, this is the first time Nkundamahoro has ever left his home country. The transition was exciting, but there were challenges at first, such as speaking English regularly and not knowing anyone.  

“Being somewhere you don’t know anybody is a challenge. But I made friendships, and I am okay now,” Nkundamahoro said. “Mostly it is fun. It is exploring, and I like exploring.”  

Nkundamahoro aspires to one day have his own art studio and gallery.  

“Art is the thing that I love to do, it makes me happy."

“Art is the thing that I love to do, it makes me happy,” Nkundamahoro said.  

Nkundamahoro is ecstatic to see what his future holds.  

“Here there are countless opportunities, and I want to continue my exploration about art and improve my art skills. I believe Kent State will offer me this,” Nkundamahoro said.  

Learn more about the School of Art.

POSTED: Thursday, September 21, 2023 02:00 PM
Updated: Thursday, September 21, 2023 02:25 PM
Cassidy Grentz, Flash Communications