Painting by Frederick Ndabaramiye, showing children at the center, having fun. Courtesy Photo/Frederick Ndabaramiye

CAPE ELIZABETH — Thomas Memorial Library is gearing up to host an art exhibit and talk featuring the story of Frederick Ndabaramiye, a Rwandan artist and survivor of the 1994 genocide who lost both of his hands at the age of 15 after he was brutally attacked.

The exhibit, scheduled for February and March, promises to shed light on Ndabaramiye’s journey and the power of art. A talk is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Andy Ryer, community engagement librarian at Thomas, described Ndabaramiye’s story as “unique and inspiring.” Ndabaramiye’s journey from Rwanda to Maine is one marked by resilience and a commitment to helping others, Ryer said.

Reflecting on his decision to move to Maine, Ndabaramiye said, “Life showed me the path, this is my new journey.” Despite facing challenges and uncertainty, he said he found solace in the welcoming community of Maine, which he now considers his home.

In his homeland of Rwanda in East Africa, Ndabaramiye faced unimaginable horrors during the genocide of 1994, he said. The genocide was the culmination of centuries of ethnic tensions between the minority long ruled Tutsi group and the majority Hutu group. Over the span of 100 days, 800,000 people were killed.

When his aunt’s husband died, his mother sent him to help her, Ndabaramiye said. He took a bus, but rebels stopped the bus and took the 18 passengers hostage. They were forced to walk for hours and they were beaten. The rebels told Ndabaramiye to kill his fellow prisoners. “I said kill me first,” Ndabaramiye said.


The rebels killed the passengers and then told him they had a message for him. They cut off his hands and left him to die. He managed to get up and walk away. He came across two sisters who took him in and called for help. Ndabaramiye spent months in a coma. When he woke, he said he felt discouraged and hopeless. He tried to kill himself in the hospital. He said it was then that he realized God had a reason to allow him to live.

After a year in the hospital, Ndabaramiye sought solace at Imbabazi orphanage, rebuilding his life despite losing most of his family and his mother’s inability to support him due to his loss of hands. He co-founded the Ubumwe Community Center in 2005 in Rwanda, with Zachary Dusingizimana, aiming to empower disabled individuals through education, skills training, meals, and artisan programs, helping them lead independent and productive lives.

Frederick Ndabaramiye will present his artwork at the Cape Elizabeth library for the months of February and March or 2024. courtesy photo/Frederick Ndabaramiye

“I decided art was a gift to me that I can share” Ndabaramiye said, reflecting on his journey. “After what happened to me, I had a new life.”

Despite the challenges of learning basic tasks without hands, Ndabaramiye found strength and purpose through art. “The art was a tool to help me make a connection with other people. I taught, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’ I wanted to help other people even if you pass through hard experience, never give up. That was a tool I was using. Others learned from me you have to keep going on. I feel my life is to help people through art and help them to practice forgiveness.”

Despite enduring unimaginable trauma, he said he believes in the transformative power of forgiveness and its ability to bring freedom and strength.

Reflecting on his upcoming event at the library, Ndabaramiye said he was grateful for the opportunity to share his story and art with the community. “Art and art shows are really changing my life,” he said. “To me, it is a way to see my journey is a success.”


Ndabaramiye will share his art and experience including his book, “Frederick: A Story of Boundless Hope.”

“The art show is more opportunity and a door open for me,” Ndabaramiye said. “I am thankful that Andy (from the library) has given me the opportunity to share my story there. I am going to share my art and experience and how I got this gift of art to share with the world and items like a book I wrote. I will speak about art and my story and show that art was the key to. The art is one of my opportunities where I can meet people and talk with people.”

“Frederick is a remarkable man in how he has dealt with an extremely challenging tragic assault in his youth,” Leslie Gatcombe-Hynes of Roux and Cyr Art, said. “His integrity prevented him from joining his attackers and he chose to be true to his friends and family over his concern for his personal safety. He recovered and through his rehab he found purpose in his art. His paintings show people and animals going about their daily lives in peace, joy, and harmony. I enjoy looking at his artwork because he has such lovely scenes, and he uses vibrant colors. I look forward to seeing more of his work of local scenes in Maine. Frederick is a person who moves forward and is an inspiration to people everywhere.”

Roux and Cyr Art are planning to have Ndabaramiye speak at the gallery in the near future.

“This one I painted to show my life in hospital. This is a story of how the hospital was busy and I was sitting there. You can see both hands were wearing bandages. So the people were very sad to see me that way. I was a young boy who didn’t have hands” Courtesy photo/Frederick Ndabaramiye

“It is my dream to do something here like I did back home,” Ndabaramiye said. “It is my goal to figure out how to help other people like me and people who need help. I feel my life is to help people through art and help them to practice forgiveness. In Maine, I can share and help others who need help.”

For more information about Frederick Ndabaramiye and the Ubumwe Community Center, visit

Artist Frederick Ndabaramiye is also the founder of I am Able, a handicap cycling team. Courtesy photo/Frederick Ndabaramiye

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