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Koen Vanmechelen connects art and urban development with Cosmogolem in Rwanda

Artist Koen Vanmechelens’ Cosmogolem travels to Musanze, Rwanda. The inauguration of the wooden sculpture of hope and evolution will take place in September 2023. The community artwork will be a highlight at the youth centre in Musanze, helping young people find their own voice and identity and increase their participation in city life. The sculpture is made possible by different partners joining forces including Enabel, Rwanda Arts Initiative, the Belgian embassy, the local government and the Cosmogolem Foundation.

Cosmogolem in Musanze

Since its inception in 2006 Koen Vanmechelens’ Cosmogolem, a social artistic project, has travelled to more than 40 countries around the globe, from the Netherlands, India, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Tanzania, Poland, to Zimbabwe. Its journey is far from finished. This year the wooden giant’s path leads to Musanze, a mountain town in northern Rwanda, near the Congolese border. It is the gateway to the famous Virunga Park, home to the mountain gorillas.

Here, local governments and Enabel, Belgian’s federal development agency join forces on inclusive and sustainable urban development projects. Central to this collaboration is the role of youth, art and co-creation as vectors of development. The opening of the newly build youth centre, planned for end of September 2023, together with the inauguration of Vanmechelens’ Cosmogolem build in collaboration with local artists, stand testimony to this shared vision.

Art for a healthy society

Earlier this year, Vanmechelen visited Rwanda and, together with the Belgian embassy, Enabel, Rwanda Arts Initiative (RAI) and Musanze’s mayor, found a common ground; the importance a Cosmogolem statue can have for an urban development project and for the youth in Musanze. The involvement of the local population is key to the project. The wooden Cosmogolem which is an integral part of Musanze’s new Youth Center has been constructed by 14 local artists, coordinated by RAI. The feet of the sculpture are made out of volcanic stone, a local natural stone that proved itself to be a change agent in Rwanda.

“We build the Cosmogolem in sustainable but perishable materials,” states Vanmechelen. “If you don’t take care of the Cosmogolem, it will degrade. And I think that’s a good thing. People have to love it, because if you love it, you take care of it.”

Learn more about the project



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