BEHIND Lemigo Hotel in Kimihurura, a cobblestone road snakes through the affluent neighborhood. But after walking for a kilometre, the road leads me to a gate with inscriptions of Uburanga arts centre. Going past the gates of the arts centre, you are welcomed by its inviting serenity.
Painted trees and different metallic impressions of Rwanda’s famous birds and animals cover the compound. The rich flora and fauna of the “Land of a thousand hills” is artistically displayed here.
In the compound I meet Augustin Hakizimana the founder of the centre who gladly ushers me to his workshop. As we walk around, I see several artists busy painting on large canvasses- products they hope to sell to art lovers who visit the centre.
“I like the tranquility of this place because it gives me a piece of mind when doing my paintings,” Hakizimana tells me about the place he has turned into the ideal ambience for an artist.
But Hakizimana is not just your ordinary artist. He is a philanthropist at heart who uses part of proceeds from his artistic talent to help the needy.
Born in 1988 in Kigali, Hakizimana says that seeing the struggles women face in their daily lives inspired him to be passionate in art and charity.
“The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left an indelible mark on our country. Women and children were left as vulnerable widows and orphans respectively. But we the surviving generation must wake up and rebuild their confidence in society,” he notes.
He adds, “My heart bled as a young boy to see a number of women eking a living and struggling to feed their children just because the Genocide left them widowed. I said in my heart that when I grow up, I would take a broom and sweep even a little corner just to give some of them little hope and comfort.”
Hakizimana says that after completing his high school at ESK Secondary School in Kicukiro, he did a one year stint as a bar waiter in 2007. However, this was to prove to be a blessing in disguise for not only did he gain confidence to face different people but also met established artists from Ivuka arts centre who were impressed by his talent and convinced him to join them.
Two years in Ivuka was enough to polish his artistic talent and when the opportunity came, he moved on and opened Uburanga arts centre to fulfill his childhood dream in 2010.
Hakizimana was later to establish Agasozi Arts Centre, one year ago to equip the youth with the opportunity to strengthen their creativity and express themselves through art.
Agasozi Art Centre is located in Musanze District.
Before this, Hakizimana took part in a worldwide arts competition in Italy where he emerged second. “I used part of the prize money to buy some goats for young women at Agasozi to help them get out of chronic poverty and provide for their families.”
Under Agasozi foundation, income generating projects are funded to uplift lives in the community.
Agazosi supports girls who dropped out of school due to lack of school fees. The centre teaches the girls how to paint, make jewelries and accessories and fashion handicrafts. The girls hope to return to school once they earn money from these projects, and they work each day to achieve their goals under Hakizimana’s watch.
Agasozi also works with numerous schools like Rugarika Primary School where they volunteer and also give funds.
Together with artists from Uburanga, we have organised several workshops in different schools to promote arts. “I’m involved in discovering young talent in schools. We want to bring art to school since currently; it has no place on the syllabus.”