Portrait celebrates life of actor who escaped genocide as toddler
PUBLISHED: 16:32 07 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 October 2019
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.
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.
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.
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 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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