Rwandan women are underrepresented because visual art is considered a male dominated field, while their barriers and challenges are often undermined In a bid to curb this problem Crista Uwase, Jemima Kakizi, Pearl Karungi, Odile Uwera, Hortense Kamikazi and others who were active at that time would talk about forming a collective to group together Rwandan women artists in 2015 but the collective began operating in 2020 following a group exhibition titled Messages of Rwandan Womxn Artists: #EachForEqual. Curated by Crista Uwase together with RwandaArt Museum and Geothe Institute. “We were very few active females in visual art when we started, we got an idea of increasing our visibility and creating awareness for people to know that we exist,” Jemima Kakizi, one of the founders of the collective, told The New Times. Besides their visibility in the visual art sector, the group also wanted to support each other and provide inspiration to young girls interested in doing the same. They have since been operating online via Instagram and their website womxn-artists.rw and have been in touch with other women visual artists residing in different places. Providing inspiration for young girls who might be interested in visual arts and supporting them through their careers has been the icing on the cake of this collective since the founders envision a world where women visual artists are recognised, share opportunities and feel empowered to create in a very free work environment. “There’s no requirement. Every woman in visual arts is welcome to be part of the collective. We have many women, we still work as individual artists but we support each other. When there’s an exhibition we make sure those who want to participate know about it and we share opportunities. We don’t have any limited number of members since we started this initiative we have continuously met women in visual arts that we didn’t know about before,” Kakizi adds. Artists speak out According to Shemsa Neza a member of the collective, the initiative has been an opened doors for her career. “Working with fellow women artists has been a great pleasure, it has opened many doors and opportunities for me personally. This collective has been a safe space for me to work as I have always wanted to, and it has opened my eyes and mind to many different issues faced by women in our society. I have learnt a lot in the process and am hoping to keep on learning,” she says. Lynka Lydie also said that the collective has helped her to get out of her comfort zone and motivated her to work hard and smart when using art to share messages that can change the world. She added, “Women artists are there and involved in the creative industry. Know us, work with us and buy from us. We are currently organising an exhibition that will focus on mental health, the dates will be communicated, please come and support us.” When asked about their setbacks, the women pointed out lack of visibility, being burdened by gender-assigned roles like housework and childcare responsibilities, lack of materials and financial support, inadequate time to dedicate to their careers, being less valued or treated seriously and not getting mentors in this male-dominated field. All these reinforce the underrepresentation of women in visual art events since they mostly happen at night. Regardless of these challenges, the collective is determined to fight against all odds and their wish is that the government reduces taxes on art materials and for business people to invest in visual arts since they can be promised the best results.