The Wednesday, September 6, fire that engulfed L’Espace, a creative arts space located in Kacyiru near Kigali Public Library, has left stakeholders in the creative industry gutted and counting losses. In the afternoon, a devastating fire engulfed the cherished venue that had become a haven for Rwandan creatives since its establishment in 2020. VIDEOS: Fire ravages city entertainment space The venue, located behind a fuel station and supermarket that were not affected by the blaze, is now a shadow of its former self. As a result of the intense flames, the roof collapsed, leaving a heap of music and art instruments completely burnt and unrecognisable. Among those left dumbfounded include Jacques ‘Mighty Popo’ Muligande, Principal Director at Rwanda School of Creative Arts and Music, whose students were scheduled to hold a performance at the venue in a few days’ time. “We lost a prime spot where we could showcase music as we teach it. There are other places that take our students like Tania’s Lounge but these are bars or clubs. “For us to lose the only place that was taking students to showcase what they’ve learnt without compromising any of their talents is a big loss. We just have to somehow pick up the pieces and see how to get up from this,” he said. Mighty Popo stated that the cause of the fire is still unknown, but the extent of the damage is significant. Unfortunately, nothing will be able to be saved, particularly the musical instruments. “There is nothing left. All our gear is burnt, from lighting to consoles, guitars, drums, and pianos, they are all gone,” he said, adding that some people lost documents, including passports. Academic Alice Urusaro Uwagaga Karekezi, who is also an art and music enthusiast, said the loss of L’Espace is indeed a heart-breaking one for creatives and artistes who had found a home there. “This is a big blow to our art industry and our creative community. We were lucky not to lose human life. The space that was painfully gained and housed some of the key resources of this community is now ashes. “It urges us to mobilise new resources to help our creatives recover from their losses and have a decent space to continue creating,” she added. Music and art promoter Judo Kanobana, who often hosted events at the Kacyiru-based venue, said the damage was massive, but they are still doing an assessment to know the cost. All art-related equipment and facilities were destroyed. “It is a great loss. L’Espace provided a platform for people in the creative industry to showcase their work, including movies, dance, theatre, drama, art exhibitions, and many other events that were hosted at the venue. “The entire place was gutted. Many kept their things there, there were many musical instruments. It was a huge loss. There are no words to describe it,” Kanobana said. Eric ‘Soul’ Karengera, founder of Afrogroov and a promoter of arts, says he was personally gutted by the incident which claimed one of the few real art spaces. “I feel quite devastated because L’Espace was built by grassroots creatives themselves with their own investment,” he said, adding that it was structured in a manner that served everyone in the industry, right from the bottom to the top. “It is quite devastating for the creative community, it was one of the unique spaces that really understood the requirements and the environment where creative minds could work and also present their work, whether visual arts, cinema, performances, dance or workshops,” he said. He said it was a space where artistes could go and learn things, collaborate with others, and also interact with international guests who visited regularly. A call for more investment in creative spaces Karengera said the fire should be a wake-up call for the country to consider investing in standard creative spaces that can protect investors from incurring such losses. “It is a very big loss and I really hope it is going to be a wakeup call for authorities and leadership to understand that this is a sector that's very promising and can contribute greatly to the GDP. “There is a need to invest in spaces that are purpose-built for the creative industry, that have all the requirements, are well-equipped, and meet all safety standards,” Karengera said. L’Espace was founded in 2020 by Wesley Ruzibiza and Didacienne Nibagwire – creative industry players. Over the years, it has hosted many exhibitions, performances, and workshops that brought together an industry that was in dire need of such a place. Marumbo Sichinga, a Malawian poet, living and working in Rwanda says the loss of L’espace will leave a big gap in the arts and creative space in the country. “It was actually the first place I ever performed when I got to Rwanda, which was about two years and some months ago. Over time, I've been to multiple events there. It's been a home for a lot of artists. “It's going to be hard to fill that gap because it was like one of the go-to places if you had arts that you wanted to share, visual or audio,” Sichinga, who recently performed there, said. “I was about to also do my own show on Friday and now it is gone just like that. We’ve got to find another place where we can be able to share,” he said, adding that the team at L’espace was welcoming. Sichinga hopes it can be rebuilt or something can be done to salvage it, reiterating that they lost a good venue that cannot be easily replaced. He, however, said that it is important that no lives are lost because property can be replaced.