'Protect people, not borders' is the slogan across the top of Sibomana's website. The Italo-Belgian artist has for years been making paintings, posters, graffiti and murals in cities across the world, using them to talk about migration and raise awareness among migrants' worlds through sparking emotions.
''I have been drawing and painting since I was young,'' Sibomana told ANSA. Since getting his degree in graphic art in Brussels, he has been mixing cultures and promoting integration through his graffiti, paintings, photography and posters. ''What I do basically reflects my personal background. I grew up in Congo and Ruanda and I am Italo-Belgian. I have lived in different cultures and this lead me to do what I am doing today.'' His work on migrants began in 2015, when Sibomana got to know the activities of the migrant reception center in Rome known as Baobab, which has since closed. ''I went there to donate clothes and see the situation. I was with them for a year and a half. I saw many of my friends from Congo in these refugees, since they live in the same sort of situations, and I couldn't just do nothing.'' Inside of the center, Sibomana made murals with the faces of two of the children housed inside of it. ''After that experience,'' he said, ''I began to work on the theme of migration.'' After Rome and through the 'Waves of the Heroes' project, Sibomana travelled along typical migrant routes through Europe: Lesbos, Athens, Istanbul and Berlin, bringing his art to the locations with posters and paintings. ''I would like to continue this route,'' he added, ''going to Lampedusa and other places of migration.''
Migrants' faces to spark emotions Migrants of different ages and genders are an identifying feature of Sibomana's works. The images are printed on canvas in black and white and are then painted on. His latest exhibition in Rome is called 'Children of the Sea' and will be at the Explora museum until October. ''I was with the children at a Rome reception center for two weeks. They had arrived in Italy with migrant boats that had crossed the Mediterranean. I got to know them and we played and painted together. Then we began to take the photos for the project.''
The exhibition ''is not meant to be tragic. Reality is at times much harder, but here we did something lighter because the children had a bad reaction when they saw my previous works, which have whistles and life jackets in them''. Through these works ''I would like to remind the world that all children have the right to be happy'', he said. Art, he added, ''is emotion. My aim is to try to convey this emotion to people, to make them reflect on the theme of migration and reception, beyond what they read in newspapers.''
(Picture shows one of Sibomana paintings. Photo courtesy of the artist)