The following article was suggested by one of our readers—if theres an idea you would like us to cover, please submit it here. LIKE OTHER SECTORS, the art sector in Rwanda has also been profoundly affected by Covid-19. It is for this reason that Rwanda Art Museum has been collaborating with several artists by organising temporary exhibitions because as Vivaldi Ngenzi, manager of the museum says: “The pandemic should not suppress their ideas.” ‘Making stones talk’ is one of the many temporary exhibitions and the first of its kind in Rwanda, that is keeping the museum alive but is also part of preservation and education for aspiring artists. The sculptures currently showcased are made of volcanic stone, granite and quartz, and are part of the many art pieces by Médard Bizimana, one of the most prominent and contemporary sculptures in Rwanda, with many of his sculptures exhibited in numerous art museums around the world including Rwanda, Nepal, and Gabon and can also be seen in public spaces in China. Hosted on the ground floor of Rwanda Art Museum, the exhibition has been ongoing since April 16 and will end on April 26. some of this sculptures carved from different types of stone. The 53-year-old expresses his feelings and thoughts through sculpting, which for him is the “deep-self” of an artist. His stone sculptures exhibited, like his other art works throughout his career, mostly represent mother and child, an icon of art in Africa. “We were all once children born by women,” he explains, “so I wanted my exhibition to highlight the significance that mothers have in someone’s life. If you are lucky to be raised by a good parent, you ought to meditate on the treasure that your parents have been to you.” Carving was unquestionably essential to Bizimana’s practice and identity as a sculptor. Throughout his more than 30-year-career, he has previously made sculptures from wood, bronze and clay. His dedication to carving can be traced from his very first commission in 1988 for the pastor of a Protestant Church, when Bizimana a bird out of wood. In 2010 however, like any talented artist, he decided to evolve and venture into another form of art, stone sculpting. The inspiration came when he was, for the fourth time, in China for an art competition. “Rwandan artists are familiar with wood art and most the art works that I was showcasing were made from bronze. But when I realised that many artists at the competition were working with stones, I was intrigued and inspired because stones are easily accessible in Rwanda yet bronze cannot easily be found here. After working on my bronze art I sat by their side and learned how to carve stones. In 2010 I purchased materials for carving stones and I began making stone sculptors because in Rwanda we are blessed with several kinds of stones that some countries do not have,” he shared. Based in Rubavu District, Western Province, Bizimana has been collecting stones from the city’s surroundings not going further than 10 kilometres from his house. He then stores and carves whenever inspired. According to Ngenzi, who is also one of the curators of the exhibition, the stone sculptors are the first of its kind to be exhibited, which he hopes will inspire other artists to realise that with natural materials around us like stones, paper, plastics, wood and metal, they can be made or recycled into art that people can appreciate. Ilija Gubic, who is co-curating shares Ngenzi’s sentiments, adding that the exhibition is one of the ways to appreciate him and introduce him to younger generations of artists, whose future in art looks bright. “There are many artists here in Rwanda, especially young generations, who are also trying to do digital art which is also aligned with Rwanda’s strategy to support ICT and creative industries, so the future is absolutely bright,” he said. Gubic has been living in Rwanda since 2017. He is an architect by training and as an artist has curated some of the exhibitions as his contribution to the art scene. “In the continent, throughout the entire history most artworks are from West Africa while in East Africa not many exhibitions, in bigger cities, were organised so we don’t know much about East African art works. This is one of the exhibitions we are promoting and we try to present it on social media and document his artworks. It is our contribution to showcase our work to the global audience which is easier with the technology era,” he added. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the museum management has also adopted new online measures to communicate with its audience, as an alternative to their outreach programs in schools, universities and other physical places. More about Médard Bizimana He was born in Gisenyi, in 1967. After graduating from Nyundo Art School and teaching drawing at the primary school, he later left his job to dedicate all of his time to sculpting. At the beginning of his career, he used scissors to carve wood but was later able get more sophisticated tools that he uses in his work. Bizimana’s sculptures from the beginning of his career, during and after the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, got broken or lost while being moved from one place to another. He doesn’t have records including photographs or sketches of his sculptures he made in his early career. Out of the around 120 art works in the Rwanda Art Museum’s collection, five sculptures are his, including ‘After’ as part of the museum’s collection created to commemorate the Genocide. His themes remain similar throughout his career. He mostly portrays women, mothers and dancers. Wood for him, is much easier to work with, although it can take up to two weeks of constant work to make a sculpture. He uses ‘Jakalanda’ wood from Rwanda, and ‘Ribuyu’ and ‘Muvura’ found in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Advice to rising artists “Art has been my only source of income and from my experience, the youth ought to expand their horizon. For me to evolve, I had to travel and take part in art competitions, at a time when artists despised them. Young artists just have to work hard, be consistent and be open to opportunities that showcase their artworks,” Bizimana advised.