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Portrait celebrates life of actor who escaped genocide as toddler

PUBLISHED: 16:32 07 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 October 2019

Artist Danny Keen, right, unveils his portrait of Norwich actor Roger Nsengiyumva at the City Hall as part of Black History Month. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Artist Danny Keen, right, unveils his portrait of Norwich actor Roger Nsengiyumva at the City Hall as part of Black History Month. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A portrait celebrating the life and talent of a Norwich actor who came to the city as a toddler to escape the Rwandan genocide has been unveiled in City Hall.

Artist Danny Keenright, unveils his portrait of Norwich actor Roger Nsengiyumva, with his mum Illuminée Nganemariya at the City Hall, as part of Black History Month. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYArtist Danny Keenright, unveils his portrait of Norwich actor Roger Nsengiyumva, with his mum Illuminée Nganemariya at the City Hall, as part of Black History Month. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Roger Nsengiyumva was born in Kigali to Tutsi parents in the same month the genocide broke out.

He was days old when his father, John, was murdered by Hutu neighbours and when his mother Illuminee went on the run with Roger on her back in a bid to reach safety.

He was two years old when he and his mother arrived in Norwich.

Since then, the former City College Norwich student has gone onto to forge a successful acting career which has seen him appear in everything from Hollywood films to the London stage and Bafta-nominated TV series.

Norwich actor Roger Nsengiyumva at the City Hall, for the unveiling of his portrait by Danny Keen as part of Black History Month. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNorwich actor Roger Nsengiyumva at the City Hall, for the unveiling of his portrait by Danny Keen as part of Black History Month. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Now a portrait painted by the artist Danny Keen has been unveiled in City Hall to celebrate Mr Nsengiyumva's life and how it encompasses the Young Gifted and Black theme of Norfolk Black History Month 2019.

Showing a number of different versions of Mr Nsengiyumva looking in different directions, the portrait, which is yet to be completed, was unveiled by Mr Keen at City Hall yesterday.

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Seeing the piece for the first time, Mr Nsengiyumva, 25, said: "I had no idea what it might look like. I knew Danny wanted to do something classical with a modern emphasis on things but he's just gone way beyond what I had imagined.

The cast of the film Africa United (left to right) Sherrie Silver, Sanyu Joanita Kintu, Roger Nsengiyumva, Eriya Ndayambaje, Yves Dusenge, director Debs Gardner-Paterson and Emmanuel Jal attend the premiere of Africa United, during the 54th BFI London Film Festival, at the Odeon Leicester Square in central London in October 2010. Picture: PA Archive/PA ImagesThe cast of the film Africa United (left to right) Sherrie Silver, Sanyu Joanita Kintu, Roger Nsengiyumva, Eriya Ndayambaje, Yves Dusenge, director Debs Gardner-Paterson and Emmanuel Jal attend the premiere of Africa United, during the 54th BFI London Film Festival, at the Odeon Leicester Square in central London in October 2010. Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

"It's amazing."

Mr Keen said: "Roger is an actor, he's on stage, TV and in movies, you can Google his name and you'll see pictures of him, so it's a portrait of a young man of his times.

"A working title for it is the many faces of Roger Nsengiyumva. [As an actor] he's always looking in different directions so it's a very important that we [showed that.]"

Mr Keen said his portrait of Mr Nsengiyumva was one in a series celebrating the lives of black people living in the UK and how their lives had changed since the Second World War.

Roger Nsengiyumva in Tomb Raider (2018). Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures/OutNowRoger Nsengiyumva in Tomb Raider (2018). Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures/OutNow

"Roger is really important because for Norwich to have a young man brought up in the city from the age of two who came and found sanctuary in this city of sanctuary. It really does symbolise everything that this year's Black History Month is all about."

To find out more about Norfolk Black History Month 2019 visit www.norfolkblackhistorymonth.org

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