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IU Mandela Washington Fellow Shares Impressions and Photos of Bloomington

Francis Shok Mweze, from Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, came to Bloomington for the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Indiana University this summer. He is the founder and a creative director of Sighted Design and has more than four years of experience in graphic design and photography. Mweze, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration studies with specializations in finance and banking, is committed to showing youth that a career can be built from passion and not only from what they choose as an academic track.

(left) Mweze sits with Mandela Washington Fellow Eastina Taylor during an event at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington. (right) Mweze says there were 24 other Fellows from 20 different countries. | Limestone Post

(left) Mweze sits with Mandela Washington Fellow Eastina Taylor during an event at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington. (right) Mweze says there were 24 other Fellows from 20 different countries. | Limestone Post

Since completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Mweze has continued with his creative work and aspires to have his hometown become a visual arts capital in the region and promote its touristic sites.

Read on for a Q&A with Mweze and for photos of his time spent in Bloomington.

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About the Mandela Washington Fellowship

LP: Your bio for the Mandela Washington Fellowship says you plan to continue your creative work and aspire to have your hometown become a visual arts capital in the region. What were you hoping to accomplish through the Mandela Washington Fellowship program?

Francis: When I applied for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I hoped to gain the overseas knowledge and way of doing things because, from when I started working into this creative field, I wanted my work to be like what I see from overseas artists.

(left to right) The Hoagy Carmichael statue by IU Cinema, Showalter Plaza and IU Auditorium, and the Alexander Memorial monument on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn. | Photos by Francis Shok Mweze

(left to right) The Hoagy Carmichael statue by IU Cinema, Showalter Plaza and IU Auditorium, and the Alexander Memorial monument on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn. | Photos by Francis Shok Mweze

LP: What did you learn from the other Mandela Washington fellows?

Francis: I really learned a lot from them. They were 24 amazing people from 20 different countries. When I was placed in the Civic Leadership [track], I thought it was a mistake, for I applied for Business and Entrepreneurship track, but with them I understood that it was a way of extending my knowledge to do what I already do in a “shy” way: giving back to my community.

LP: How do programs like this help you in your pursuits back home?

Francis: Programs like this provide me some extra knowledge, experience, and networking that I’m sure will help me in the near future even back home.

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About your hometown

LP: What is your hometown and can you describe it to us?

Francis: Bukavu, South Kivu. That’s my hometown. It’s a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and bordered by the Lake Kivu. I suggest you to follow @BukavuExplorer on social media for more of my city.

(left to right) Showalter Fountain on the IU campus, Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Kirkwood Avenue, and IU’s Maxwell Hall | Photos by Francis Shok Mweze

(left to right) Showalter Fountain on the IU campus, Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Kirkwood Avenue, and IU’s Maxwell Hall | Photos by Francis Shok Mweze

LP: How do you plan to make it a visual arts capital?

Francis: Back in time, in my hometown, good photographs or designs were assumed to be provided by East African big cities only. But I went through those cities and learned from them, now I even have Indiana as a plus. And I want, in five or ten years, to have people from those cities talk about my city as a visual art resource. For that I’m planning to get, as many as possible, trainings for young talented guys in the creative field who share the same vision.

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LP: Did you learn anything from Bloomington that will help with that?

Mweze says this photo of Hickory Hall, part of Indiana University's Union Street on-campus apartments, captures his 'Limestone, Blues & Greens' photo series theme. | Photo by Francis Shok Mweze

Mweze says this photo of Hickory Hall, part of Indiana University’s Union Street on-campus apartments, captures his ‘Limestone, Blues & Greens’ photo series theme. | Photo by Francis Shok Mweze

Francis: Instead of getting a technical skill for that, I learned at Indiana University how to seek people sharing the same vision as you to support the cause you’re advocating for.

About Bloomington

LP: What were your impressions of Bloomington?

Francis: It was a welcoming and not a busy city (perfect for me).

LP: Did anything surprise you?

Francis: What surprised me is the way IU is everywhere, the city is IU-branded. I had never seen that before.

LP: Was there anything in particular that you found pleasing?

Francis: People with disability and visually impaired are safe in B-town: Braille even on zebra crosslines [crosswalks]. Wheelchair access everywhere!!!

LP: What was the most memorable part of Bloomington?

Francis: I may sound weird, but I miss Kroger.

'The Sunrise, the Bus and the Library (#4).' | Photo by Francis Shok Mweze

‘The Sunrise, the Bus and the Library (#4).’ | Photo by Francis Shok Mweze

LP: Did you see or experience anything in Bloomington that will help you with your career aspirations?

Francis: I met with Visit Bloomington. I saw where I wanted my Bukavu Explorer project to be within the five years.

LP: What is the biggest difference between Bloomington and your hometown?

Francis: Bloomington is way cleaner than my hometown. We have no such big university in my hometown too.

LP: What are the similarities?

Francis: They’re all small towns.

About your photos

LP: Most of your photos include limestone. Can you tell us about your interest in limestone?

Francis: Limestone is the icon of Bloomington, and I was so amazed how it was used on the buildings there, especially on the IU [Herman B Wells] Library.

LP: Which of the photos we’ve selected is your favorite? Why?

Francis: The Sunrise, the Bus and the Library (#4). The HW Library was my favorite landmark in Bloomington and I was happy after a morning gym session I got a sunrise with a bus because it was summarizing my mornings in a picture. Also #23. It pictures perfectly the theme of these photos. The drive for all the photos I took were “Limestone, Blues & Greens,” and I was once looking at the Hickory IU dorms [Hickory Hall, located in Union Street on-campus apartments] like that at one noon break when I decided to take that as theme for my Bloomington photos.

LP: Why did you choose these subjects to photograph?

Francis: They describe the best [of] my stay in Bloomington.

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Limestone Post
This story was compiled by Limestone Post staff.

Limestone Post is an independent magazine committed to providing a space for informative, inclusive, and in-depth stories about Bloomington, Indiana, and the surrounding areas.
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Francis Shok Mweze
Francis Shok Mweze is a Congolese graphic designer and photographer. He is the founder and creative director of Sighted Design. He completed a Civic Leadership program for the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Indiana University Bloomington and fell in love with the city. Living for and with his passion is his advocacy, since he has a degree in finances and banking but he is a visual artist. For more of his work follow @sightedesign and @bukavuexplorer.
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