Comic book writer brings Rwanda history back to life
Wednesday February 23 2022
At 25, Mika Twizeyimana Hirwa has his sights set on being a household name in the world of fantasy comic books, both in Rwanda and internationally.
As a child, he started out drawing different things with a pencil and pen, little did he know that this is what he would do for the rest of his life.
His journey into fantasy comic books started seven years ago, his maiden title, Simbi the Inventor, which was also the first Rwandan comic book.
Almost all books published in Rwanda are on the national academic syllabus.
The storyline was about a 13-year-old girl who invented a maize mill for her village, which ended up being a lifeline for the villagers.
Since then, he has authored four Afro-centric comic books, but his breakthrough came when he authored comic book titled Kami, that has garnered a big reception in Rwanda and beyond.
Kami is an African fantasy comic book, whose story is based in Rwanda. The protagonist, Kami is a young boy who was separated from his biological parents and now lives with guardians in Natwe village.
Although everyone considers him an orphan, Kami hasn’t given up hope of finding his parents, and works hard at a mining site to raise funds for his quest.
The villagers, however, believe, no one should move about at night because it is believed that darkness comes with calamity.
But it just so happens that the spirits of the village’s guardian ancestors are also restless and want to get a new host so they can impart onto that person powers needed to continue the work of protecting the village and its inhabitants from the powers that roam the darkness.
One night Kami broke the rule and met with the mediums, and they passed on the spirits to him, instantly giving him powers to do extraordinary things.
The powers were both a blessing and a curse because they distracted him from his quest to find his parents.
The book, which is in two parts, was nominated for the Nommo Awards in 2020, an annual awards initiative of the African Speculative Fiction Society.
It is an organisation of African writers, artists, editors and publishers in science fiction, fantasy, horror and related genres. Kami was on the shortlist for five best books.
In his books, Mika weaves African and Rwandan folklore and builds characters from historical events, bringing Rwandans to life.
His latest project, Goga, is on events from the ancient Rwandan monarchy, depicting a conflict between two brothers from a royal lineage, fighting over the throne. The main character Goga is King Ndahiro Cyamatare II.
The creative says he was inspired by reading comic books and watching films like the Lord of the Rings and other Marvel Comics creations.
He is also developing a Rwandan super hero, an idea he says many people find appealing.
It’s a project in progress, and together with his team, they are building the character and value system.
He, however, gets contracted to do comic arts, animations, digital illustrations and character designs, web animations, music covers and movie effects, which are the biggest source of income for him.
“My work is a bit futuristic.”
“Rwandans abroad were very happy to see Rwandan comic books for the first time, and this has motivated meto create more,” he said.
Mika says he is surprised and excited by the reception his books have received from Rwandans everywhere.
Mika, however, says he is yet to join the league of Western fantasy writers of bif money-spinners. Except for Simbi The Inventor that was published by a Rwandan publishing house Imagine We, and which earned him some money, the rest are yet to generate much revenue.
“The comic book industry here is still very small and the reading culture also very low. At this rate I think my comic books will start generating revenues 20 years from now after the industry has grown and value is attached to this art form in the country.”