[Interview with painter Sho Suzuki] Reason for continuing art activities in Rwanda and passion for project “heART”

table of contents


Interview with artist Sho Suzuki

Hello everyone. This is GOSUKE, the manager of MONOLiTH, a contemporary art online shopping site.

The partner of this artist interview is Suzuki Tsukasa.

Mr. Sho, who continues his art activities while going back and forth between Japan and Rwanda, the center of the African continent, what kind of thoughts did you start art and why do you continue your art activities in Rwanda?

I asked a lot of questions, and I was able to speak frankly.

artist profile

Suzuki Tsukasa

Profile picture of artist Satoshi Suzuki

Based on the concept of "beautiful, challengers", she creates works with motifs of various strong and beautiful women she met through her activities in Rwanda.

Images of Suzuki Palm's work

After studying fashion at a vocational school and becoming an assistant teacher, she taught dressmaking in Rwanda, Africa for five years. After returning to Japan, he started working as an artist.

In addition to his own production activities, he is also active in "heART", which supports the lives and future of Rwandan children by having them actually make art.

Click here for Suzuki Sho's Instagram

artist interview

How we arrived at the concept of “beautiful, challengers”

ーーHow did you arrive at the concept of “beautiful, challengers”?

Well, I originally lived in Rwanda in Africa for five years from 2011 to 2016. I was a volunteer for the first two years, and from the third year I received funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked as an expert while belonging to an NPO.

At that time, the content of the activity was the concept of empowering single mothers, in other words, creating jobs for single mothers.

It's the same with single mothers, but when I was a volunteer, I saw women working extremely hard, and I was moved by their power, so I started to think that I want to draw strong women in Africa. .

With that experience as a trigger, at the time of the exhibition at Shinjuku NEWOMAN the other day, I asked a professional to come up with a slogan together with me, and the words that came out were "beautiful, to the challengers", which was a perfect fit. I decided immediately.

Suzuki Sho's Newman Shinjuku Exhibition
Suzuki Sho's Shinjuku New Man Exhibition

Suzuki Sho's Newman Shinjuku Exhibition

--That's a cool word.

That's right.

I was also happy that there were many people who were encouraged by the artwork of Shinjuku Newman, "To the beautiful challengers".

ーーThat's right, you got the idea from the single mothers you actually met and the women who are doing their best.

Well, it's like that.

After all, single mothers and women with children are in a situation where it's really bad if they don't work. That's why I want to draw that kind of woman.

ーーI see. That means that the theme of "beautiful, challengers" has recently been clarified in words.

That's how it is. I vaguely had that kind of image from the beginning, but after getting some words from a slogan professional, it was decided in no time.

ーーThe language pros are amazing.

How I started working in Rwanda

ーーThen, what were the circumstances that led you to go to Rwanda in the first place?

This is also really appropriate, just by chance (laughs)

My name is written as "Palm" and read as "Tsukasa".

Ah, sokushinbutsu means that the most important monk at that time was buried in the ground when he reached the age of 60, and he kept praying with a bell. Then leave it until it is mummified.

--Sokushinbutsu, that's amazing...

That's how my father kept telling me to be a great person, and from a young age he told me to be a great leader who can be controlled with the palm of his hand, and I can help many people around the world. I wanted to become

So when I was 22, I was teaching a sewing teacher at a Japanese vocational school, but I quit that and came to Rwanda when I was 24.

When I was 22, I was making costumes and drawing portraits as a freelancer. Africa When I sent it after checking it for sewing, it happened to hit Rwanda.

ーーI see. I originally thought that I really liked Rwanda (laughs).

It was a country I didn't know at all (laughs).

Basically, I don't do any research beforehand.

why i started art

ーーWhat is the reason why you originally specialized in clothing, but the form of output became art?

Well, I lived in Rwanda for 5 years, but basically I taught at schools and such, and I worked for the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NPOs, and the rest of the year by myself, but at that time I wanted to become an apprentice. I was letting you do something. It's like teaching while living together.

During that time, I experienced being betrayed by my best disciple at the time, and I was in a pretty dangerous situation... (laughs)

I was doing my own shop in the fifth year.

The reason for this is that although I was able to create cool fashion, I had the problem of where to wear it.

Then I decided to create a store where people could wear cool clothes, and that's how I started.

ーーIt looks like the entrance to the Michelin Guide. It's like finding a good shop to use tires.

That's right, that's how it feels (laughs)

It was a good feeling when I started, but I don't know what my number one disciple would say at the time, but there are things I can't say, but... I incited the people around me, and my store was attacked. I messed up.

ーーYes, I'm afraid...

So things got serious, and people stopped coming to the store.

I had a hard time at that time, but it's a bit of a lie, but there was a Rwanda song that I was good at at the time, and I got through it (laughs).

ーーIt's amazing, it's like a movie.

But since that time, I've never put my life on the line, and since then I've been able to put my soul into my songs. I still sing when I come to Rwanda.

My preamble was getting long, but people stopped coming to the store, and due to the damage, I had no money, so I could only drink water and eat a little for about a month, and I was skinny. I came back to Japan.

So, while I was recovering in Japan, my mind and body were at their limit, and when I thought I could no longer do anything, someone I met asked me, "I like lions, don't you? Can you draw something for me?" there.

Then he bought it for me. From that experience, I honestly didn't have the energy to live, but I thought that if it was a way of life where people would be happy to draw and pay for it, maybe I could try a little harder.

ーーThat's right. splendid!

That's how I was saved, it's amazing. To draw a picture and have him buy it.

ーー So you didn't originally go to Rwanda with the intention of painting, but you ended up with painting as a result of various activities in Rwanda.

I see.

Well, I was originally good at drawing, but to be honest, I didn't think I could make a living from it.

But when they bought it for me, it made me feel like, "This is fine, my life."

When I was little, I was better than anyone else, but the grown-ups around me just said, "Well, you can't make a living from painting."

That's why I gave up from the beginning, but when I became an adult, I was probably 28 or 29 at the time, but the experience of having my painting bought made me think, "Ah, can I do this?" , stepped into the path of art.

ーSo you arrived at art through many twists and turns. Wow.

Yes, it was quite difficult.

ーーHow old is your palm now?

I am 35 now.

ーーIt's been about 6 years since you started drawing art.

I agree. However, once I decided to become an artist, things progressed quickly.

I also worked as a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I had many opportunities to meet VIPs from various countries.

If you go to such a place, you will be able to see things from a macro perspective. How and where will the art be sold?

ーーI'm 28 years old now, but compared to your 28-year-old hand, I feel like I'm tiny.

If you look at me at that time, you'll think I'm like garbage and I'm relieved (laughs)

Art situation in Rwanda

ーDo you have a passion for art in Rwanda?

I think it is relatively.

The art market hasn't grown at all yet, but there are many groups doing art, and exhibitions are being held in various places.

The price is still quite cheap, but since they are people who have an artistic sense, there are people who buy more than a certain number, and it's exciting.

I think other Africans, such as Nigeria and South Africa, would be even more impressive.

About his project "heART"

ーーPlease tell us about your own project “heART”.

Yes, heART is about children in Rwanda, and in the future, people outside of Rwanda as well. I've been doing curation and selling activities for about four years.

Suzuki Sho's heART

Suzuki Sho's heART

As I said, I had a hard time in Rwanda, and I didn't come back for three years.
Oh, by the way, I was able to reconcile with my number one disciple at the time last year (laughs).

So when I came back to Rwanda after three years, I was teaching children how to draw, but I suddenly felt that it would be a waste if I continued like this.

So I decided to buy their work, and when I actually bought it, the children and my family cried with joy, just like I experienced when someone bought me a painting when I was depressed.

ーーYou mean that you gave back what you were given.

I didn't think so at the time, but when I think about it later, I think that's what it was. It is said that he gave what he received.

I felt that this would become my life's work in an instant.

However, the boy who triggered this was a serious liver disease and died three months later.

That's why I have the heART logo, but it's his own handwriting.

heART logo
heART logo

ーーThat's right... I came with Jean.

Actually, it was a project that I started to cure that child's illness.
That's why the origin of the name is heART, thinking of him.

The word “HEART” contains both “he” and “ART”. That's what I thought, so I added it.

ーーAt the exhibition at Shinjuku Newman, heART works were also on sale.

I agree.

Works of art project heART

Works of art project heART

Works of art project heART

ーーI think it's great that you don't just provide financial support, but also support for acquiring skills.

Well, if you buy it, it will grow a lot, you can see it (laughs)
It's already amazing, I'm still drawing it, but I'm serious.

Instagram live from Rwanda

Instagram live from Rwanda

*In the Instagram live, he showed us how he was actually drawing.

ーーIn the future, do you want to create famous artists through heART?

Well, I'm planning to commercialize it.

It's been my life's work until now, but it's about to become popular, and I'm sure it will sell all over the world. I also made an EC site for overseas, and there is also NFT.

I'm thinking of putting them on that kind of thing and making them famous at once.

Also, I'm aiming for around May next year, and I'm thinking of taking about five people from Rwanda to Japan.

ーーAre there a lot of Japanese people who buy your art works now?

I agree. For now, my personal connection is the main one.

About the series of works

ーーTo return to the topic of your work, you draw animals in addition to women. Is this being developed in a separate series?

Well, I think that many artists tend to master one type of style or motif, but since I'm a fashion designer, I tend to want to create a series.

Images of Suzuki Palm's work

A female figure, a coffee painting, an atomic jungle, or something depicting only endangered species.

Only one type is impossible, because I get bored (lol)

However, I think that each one is improving my skills as an artist.

The coffee paintings are very realistic and my painting skills improve, and the live paintings are drawn with tremendous concentration within 10 minutes.

That's why I feel like my drawing skills are improving every day.

What we want to challenge from now on

ーーYou have already taken on various challenges, but is there anything you would like to challenge in the future?

There are a lot of things, but of course I'm thinking of trying to become one of the world's leading artists, and I'm trying to expand into India.

However, my overall goal in life is to create a new genre. It feels like Kazumi Suzuki somehow created a genre.
I would like to spread it little by little in Rwanda.

Making folk costumes, producing dancers and musicians. I would like to make original pieces little by little.

ーーCreating a genre...it's cool.

I believe that new genres can still be created in modern times.
And I think it's the artists who do that.

In the world from now on, I think that the existence of an artist who has no ties should create something new from the existing system.

What is overwhelmingly lacking is the value standard of “cool”.

I don't care about that kind of thing, but I think it's really important.
Cool is exciting every day, isn't it?
I think I have to make it.

That's my goal for the time being.

ーーHow do you like heART?

The first goal is to expand globally.

I also want to buy some land in Rwanda and build a museum in Rwanda.

Oh, that's a nice museum! Are there any museums in Rwanda now?

If you say there is, it is, but it is still small, like a library and art museum.

There are a lot of galleries, but there aren't many places in Rwanda where you can really enjoy culture.

I want to make it.

ーCulture building in Rwanda.

Rwanda is quite economically rich and is located in the middle of the African continent.

As a national policy, it is like setting up a lot of companies as INTERPOL and using them as a starting point to develop business all over Africa, but there is a little less culture and cool fun.

When you think of Africa, you probably imagine West Africa, Cameroon, and so on, dancing to music, but Rwanda doesn't have that kind of thing at all.

That's why I thought I could make it by myself (laughs)

ーーHearing the story, I felt once again the high level of Japanese culture, such as music and anime.

Japan has a high level of education and offers many opportunities.

But on the contrary, it has the advantage of attracting attention when a movement occurs in Africa. That's why I'm nurturing various people while telling them that it's a chance.

However, we haven't been able to draw out 100% of the effect, so I think it's a goal to create a team that can draw out the effect in the future.

It's a place where Japanese people really manage entertainment in Rwanda.

What art means to Sho Suzuki

ーーOne last thing I would like to ask is what does art mean to you.

I feel that art can be talked about from various angles, but it can mean something sublime, and it can also mean something very pure, and if you add it to just art, it can sound like anything. I think there is. It is also a waypoint.

For example, when I'm drawing, I concentrate so much that I can only see it, but when I'm done, I only think about leaving to other people.

And earn money and invest more and more in other things.

There is also a way of thinking from a distance that art is my talent that can earn properly.

Art is what I earn the most. And the idea that I'm using my artistic power as a source of funds to make the people around me shine through things like producing.

So while I have a lot of respect for art, art is just art.
So I have two mixed thoughts.

However, while I'm drawing, I'm serious about the pictures I'm drawing, and even after I've finished drawing, I can say that I'm the best painter in the world (laughs). (smile)

So what is art is complicated in a good way, wow.

ーーCertainly, the word “art” has many meanings, doesn’t it?

Also, art is something we should love now, but when I was a kid or young, I wondered what the point was in being good at drawing.

This is my anger.When I was in kindergarten and elementary school, adults would praise me, saying, "You're good at drawing, you're amazing." Yes.”

"Then why did I need to be good at drawing?" "Why was I being praised?"

So, in a way, I didn't really like painting when I was a teenager.

That's why I'm trying to say the opposite of adults.

ーーIt's really good, you affirm everything.

Affirmation is very important in education.

I myself have often been in the position of a teacher in various ways in my life, but I should say that I deny education, or rather, I should not be careful.

Especially don't edit pictures.

There is no answer in painting, and since it is drawn with your own hands and mind, it is almost like the person himself.

I feel like it would hurt the soul tremendously if it was better to be careful about it.

So I paid very little attention to it.

ーーArt is a very personal thing, isn't it?

Yes, that's why I think you don't have to do anything other than praise. I really think

My personal theory is that there are very few people who can actually teach things, so I'm just teaching them because I know a little bit about how to do things. I value that way of thinking.

--Thank you very much for your time today! There are so many words that have been used in my life.

Click here for the actual interview video

This interview was conducted on Instagram Live.
Be sure to check out the artists in action.

Instagram live

Click here for Suzuki Sho's Instagram live

At the end

That concludes our interview with Sho Suzuki, who is active in Rwanda and Japan.

Mr. Palm is energetically active, such as how he started art, the theme of "beautiful, challengers" drawn by himself, and the art project heART.

Palm's works are also available on the online shopping site MONOLiTH!
Please check it out.

Click here for Suzuki's work

Thank you for reading this far.
See you soon!

MONOLiTH Operation Manager

Gosuke Onoda