Jun 26, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Nowhere to hide from virus across three continents for Bunyeshuri

The worst of the coronavirus pandemic may be behind us, but for John Bunyeshuri, public relations expert and founder of Kigali Fashion Week, the events of 2020 have been a rollercoaster ride. Caught up in Japan, he fled to London, where things got worse, and later to New York, where reality hit.

Shortly after the conclusion of Kigali Fashion Week 2019 in Rwanda, he traveled to Japan as part of the Kigali International Fashion Show Tour. “It was successful and the team stayed hopeful to do more networking and continue working on the potential deals we had identified,” said Bunyeshuri.

The fashion event in Japan caught the eye of a few People who were also involved in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. So they caught up with Bunyeshuri and his team to discuss how fashion could be added to the games’ activities. “We signed a deal with the Tokyo Olympics to create an African cultural fashion village that had even attracted sponsors like Adidas, but all was lost when the pandemic hit,” he said.

Bunyeshuri left Japan for London hoping the pandemic situation would improve. He was wrong. He got stuck, caught in a lockdown that ended up lasting a full year. He lived in Bethnal Green and recalled that “it was dead quiet. Not a single person was in the streets, it looked like the end of the world.”

From a busy, vibrant place, “It looked like an apocalypse and wild animals roamed the streets free, eh the end of the world had come,” he said.

They just stayed inside for six months. “We did a little shopping, watched the news and hopefully waited,” he recalls with a slight emotion in his voice.

He later moved to New York, USA, in late 2021 and was equally shocked by the once busy places that were all deserted. “Airports from Heathrow in London to JFK in the US were eerily empty and it was a tense time,” Bunyeshuri describes.

He recalls how passengers at the airport terminals were all strangely afraid of each other, a a slight cough or sneeze could easily startle people who have moved away. Near him, the pandemic claimed the life of his brother, who was living in South Africa as of January 2021. South Africa was one of the worst affected countries in the world. “It was tragic,” he says, “only four people attended his funeral. I couldn’t attend at the time due to travel restrictions.”

He has been a live fashion event organizer for 11 years and admits that the virtual event concept wasn’t meant for live fashion shows: “I was part The 2021 The organization of the Mabenna Fashion Week in Spain, and it was not worth it,” he notes. He believes that because of their uniqueness, fashion shows have an impact when attendees are physically involved.

Bunyeshuri has only recently returned to Rwanda after travel restrictions were eased, and he says in the three months he’s been here, he’s still amazed at how things have changed in such a short amount of time and life is quickly getting back to ‘normal’.”