The rebirth of contemporary Rwandan Art

The giant pot and modest artistic decoration on the gate bearing animal sculptures on either side clearly suggests what Collin Sekajugo calls, “Ivuka Arts Kigali.”
Collin Sekajugo the founder and director of Ivuka Arts Kigali and RwaMakondera, displaying one of his art pieces. (File photo).
Collin Sekajugo the founder and director of Ivuka Arts Kigali and RwaMakondera, displaying one of his art pieces. (File photo).

The giant pot and modest artistic decoration on the gate bearing animal sculptures on either side clearly suggests what Collin Sekajugo calls, “Ivuka Arts Kigali.”

This unique home gallery is a one-of-a-kind joint arts studio, located in Kigali’s upmarket Kacyiru district. It trains Rwanda’s young talented artists and promotes the contemporary fine arts in the country.

After traveling to more than 15 countries on the African continent as Rwanda’s representative for artistic study tours, exhibitions, and international workshops, founder and director Sekajugo felt the need to turn his talent into a more extensive project, one that would nurture the talent of Rwanda’s young artists, thus the conception of Ivuka Arts Kigali in 2007.

Ivuka, the Kinyarwanda word for ‘birth’, became the most sought-after fine arts destination for expatriates and diplomats in Rwanda. Sekajugo’s dream is of a studio where art changes lives.

Through its mentoring programme, artists who formerly struggled to make a living are honing their skills, finding platforms for exposure, and gaining recognition.

When reflecting about life, there are many things that the Artist visualises and which have inspired him to transpose these interpretations of his surroundings into some sort of art form.

These things come in the form of objects, both living and non-living. In describing his work, Ivuka’s director says that where appropriate, he infuses into his works mixtures of classical or modern influences.

Most importantly, the star is very much influenced by the seductive hold that fashion has in propelling his works to another level. He emphasises that fashion is a dominant feature in many of my painting.

“Given its central influence in conveying cultural identities, for example it is a method by which stages of the influence of modernity on man and his surroundings can be portrayed.”

The 29-year-old adds that his works are predominantly a reflection of what he, as a person experiences in life. A lot of his works draw upon his every-day interpretations of his interactions with people and his surroundings.

His work, which is dominated by a free-style method, is indicative of how he is not restrictive in his use of emotion in attempts to instil a certain level of realism into his work. Semi abstractions are often intertwined with various textures to attain this desired outcome.

“Clarification of my work is meant to keep the viewer guessing on true true meaning. The ambiguity intended means that one can personally relate to my work according to their experience with their surroundings,” says Sekajugo.

He hopes that through interpreting the flow of colours and textures of his works, people can through their own perspective test the significance of the message that he intended for the work in question.

More importantly, however, it remains important that the viewer can identify with a personal theme in the piece, one which they can wholly relate to according to their life experience.

However, the fact remains that it is exceptionally difficult for Rwandan artists to find success without the support of an institution that can sharpen up their skills and provide a platform for their exposure.

Meanwhile, Sekajugo is not only famous for Ivuka Arts Kigali, but also as a person who foundered RwaMakondera, Ivuka’s traditional dance troupe. It has changed many  street children’s lives by finding hope and educational opportunities.

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