Kigali, Rwanda | Founded 2006 | 200+ Youth Served
Artists have always come from Rwanda to perform at LEAF and share powerful stories of the resilience of youth in Kigali. In 2006, LEAF was introduced to a group of young boys who had been receiving mentoring from other prominent artists, such as Jean Paul Samputu. These boys are now men and have moved on to new journeys in life – leaving a pathway for new youth to step in.
This extraordinary path has led to the rise of a phenomenal culture keepers & a center that supports more than 200 youth in the Kacyiru district. This group of youth are known as the LEAF Rwanda JR Troupe.
The Rwanda JR Troupe is a talented, ambitious group of youth drummers & dancers from
various life backgrounds. These youth have an abundant amount of resilience & devotion. The youth have so much pride in being Rwandan and their excitement around learning their own culture is an
The opportunity to learn their culture is an extremely valuable tool and for most, the only sprinkle of enjoyment they receive in a day. Even on ‘off’ days, the kids come to the center to watch the culture keepers practice and have a break from the hardships of their day to day lives.
Currently, the Junior Troupe has more than 200 youth members and practice up to 3 times per week
ONEmic Studio Rwanda
The mission of the Rwanda ONEmic is to help young artists develop talent and promote culture and music as a platform for self-expression. Created in 2020, this ONEmic studio is a community resource for local musicians & storytellers located at the Rwanda JR Troupe Cultural Center.
From music instruments to child sponsorship, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to supporting Global Arts education & preservation!
LEAF is a 501(C)3 charitable organization. Your generous gifts in support of cultural arts education go directly to these programs.
Kunda Inkindi (Love Your Culture) Kunda Inkindi is a dance that shows love for culture in Rwanda tradition. Culture Keepers David Kwizera & Claude Nyandwi share their love for cultural preservation through Rwandan drum & dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HahG6bjhb4&ab_channel=LEAFGlobalArts
The Rwanda JR Troupe Culture center is incorporated as a local non-profit organization in Rwanda. This will give the program leaders more opportunity to expand, create more performances, and build a sustainable future.
March: The JR Troupe opened once again for the Tour Du Rwanda concert series, wowing the crowd with a combination of traditional dances and chants.
The JR Troupe has performed 6 times since January, proving the need and interest of cultural preservation in their community.
January: Culture Keeper David Kwizera travels to Arusha, Tanzania for a culturally rich exchange with LEAF International Tanzanian culture keeper, studio engineer, & youth!
February: Culture Keeper David Kwizera partners with LEAF Schools & Streets as a substitute teaching artist for Adama Dembele. David Kwizera leads cultural exchanges at several locations in Asheville including Burton Street ONEmic Studio, Christine Avery Center, Valley Springs Middle, Bell Elementary, Fernleaf, and a 3-day residency at Odyssey Community School. These cultural exchanges lead to dynamic performances at the 46th LEAF Festival.
August: The LEAF Rwanda JR Troupe makes their grand debut on the main-stage of the Tour Du Rwanda concert series with more than 15,000 people in attendance.
October: Culture Keeper David Kwizera hosts a 3-day residency at Rainbow Community School. David introduced young students to the rich music and dance traditions of Eastern Africa. Students learned basic Rwandan dance, a tradition deeply embedded in the cultural interplay between African continuity, rhythm, and acts of positive resistance that challenged oppression. Through the cultural exchange, students were invited to cultivate cross-cultural understanding and a sense of global citizenship.
August: LEAF International Rwanda launched its first LEAF ONEmic studio!
July: With the success of securing a home and the start of a cultural center for the LEAF Intore Cultural Troupe, they have been practicing night and day with no limitations. The community hears their practices and the enticing rhythms of their drums. Youth in the neighborhood have shown interest and show up at the house every day for practice. Seeing an apparent connection & cultural need for youth, a LEAF JR Troupe was formed. This group is led by Culture Keeper David Kwizera and has over 80 youth.
May: LEAF International Culture Keepers participated in the 44th LEAF Festival. The group did a 5-day residency (with LEAF International Tanzania) at Oakley Elementary as well as cultural exchanges at several local community centers and LEAF Schools & Streets programs.
Chief David Kwizera stayed two extra weeks with the LEAF community. During his stay, he continued to teach workshops to Asheville area youth as well as have his first vacation ever!
LEAF International Tanzania & Rwanda headline the twice-annual Orange Peel performance alongside culture keepers Masankho Banda, Adama Dembele, Stephanie & Gregory Laforest, and Grandfather Mazatzin. This performance alone brought in a youth group of more than 460.
LEAF International Ambassador, Sarah Hipp, visited the Intore Cultural Troupe this September for a couple of weeks and worked on getting passports for all the guys so that they can come to LEAF soon! One of the troupe members, Patrick, received his passport and visa and has been performing around the USA with his brother Pacifque. In October the brothers came and performed at LEAF and sold some of the beautiful paintings that they brought from Rwanda. With the help of Patrick and Pacifque, we are hoping to get the rest of the Intore Cultural Troupe to LEAF in 2017!
The Troupe becomes officially registered with the Ministry of Culture and Youth through the Rwanda Development Board. This process will bring many opportunities to the Intore Cultural Troupe!!
Daniel sent a wonderful update that he is no longer a driver but a full-time musician! We are so proud of him!
LI Rwanda staff/board return to Kigali to visit Troupe and envision how the program can be strengthened.
Patrick is recognized as the best dancer in the country! Independence steps-3 young men are hired for good regular jobs!
Kelly Simpson says goodbye- she taught the troupe English for 3 years.
Daniel, the Troupe’s Inanga player, performs for The President’s Wife Birthday and is hired for regular concerts at local international hotels.
Several Troupe members have their first teaching experience with Star School.
Several of the Troupe Members join national troupes.
LEAF Intore Troupe does their first performance at Serena Hotel Ballroom.
LEAF partners with Ivuka Arts.
Mizero Children of Rwanda return to LEAF Festival.
LI Rwanda partners with Playing for Change Foundation to pursue the dream of Intore Cultural Center.
LEAF International Rwanda Students move from the streets into a HOUSE thanks to the help of a LEAF supporter! They name themselves LEAF Intore Cultural Troupe.
Troupe starts a football team and is the first “Street Kids” to win a Football Tournament!
October: Performing artists visits LEAF Festival with Mizero Children of Rwanda to showcase Rwandan traditions and promote the LI Rwanda program. Mizero continues their own international tour, making connections and telling the story of our LI Rwanda kids.
December: LEAF International Rwanda begins at the invite of the international performing artists.
Meet the Culture Keeper
Patrick NSHIMIYANA is a cultural & traditional song, dance, and drums teacher for the LEAF Rwanda Jr Troupe. He started his professional career in 2008 drumming in multiple cultural groups, and now he is a member of INGANZO NGARI, the current leading cultural troupe in Rwanda. He has performed throughout many East African countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and D.R C. His goal is to teach Rwandan culture to different people all over the world.
Paulin NSENGIYUMVA currently leads LEAF Rwanda Jr Troupe and ONEMic Recording Studio in Rwanda. He composes and creates traditional and modern songs.
In his childhood, Paulin grew up in an orphanage that had a cultural group called NOEL Orphanage at Nyundo – this is where he started to know and understand the drum.
He recently graduated from Institute Catholique de Kabgayi with a degree in Public Relations.
Paulin has been organizing LEAF Rwanda Jr Troupe’s community performances and ONEmic studio sessions since 2021. His main goal is to rebuild the program and show why it it important.
“Girls can drum too,” was the response from the young ladies of the Rwanda JR Troupe. Uncommon to see female drummers in Rwanda, because girls are dancers, but a change is in flow. These young women find power in the beating the drum and vow to make it a common practice in their country traditions.