Four Rwandan visual artists are set to showcase their work in Texas, USA at an international art exhibition titled ‘When the Sun Stands Still’. The group exhibition organised by the Mitochondria Gallery of Houston, featuring 11 visual artists from East and West Africa, will take place from June 24 to July 15. The exhibition’s title is a rhyme to the longest day of the year, which occurs on the summer solstice, also called the festival solstice or midsummer (when one of Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun—it happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere). It is also a figurative representation of the moments in time that the exhibiting artists have captured in the works presented. The show is expected to feature new works from Odeyemi Oluwaseun, Nedia Were, Adaeze Adinnu, Ismael Kwizera, Roberto Pare, Daniel Adenitan, Manzi Leon, Kingsley Tamfou, and Kansiime Brian Lister, and Rwanda’s Antoine Izere, King Dusabe, Ismael Kwizera, and Leon Manzi. According to the Rwandan artists, this won’t be the first time to display their art in the US, as they signed a contract with Mitochondria Gallery where their work is sold. Izere recalls receiving a message on Instagram from the Mitochondria Gallery after they noticed his talent through the posts of his work, requesting to collaborate with him in 2021 on an art exhibition. He later connected them to other artists, thus paving the way for more Rwandan artists to exhibit beyond their country. Through continuous communication and sharing his work with Mitochondria Gallery, Izere was presented with opportunities to organise a solo exhibition and three group shows in the US between 2021 and 2022. Dusabe also successfully showcased his art in a two-person show with a Nigerian artist in November 2022, Manzi featured in a group exhibition in September 2022, and Kwizera in 2021. Opportunities In an interview with the visual and figurative artists, Manzi noted that such international exhibitions are an opportunity for them to attract a larger market and earn more. Izere said such a platform motivates them to grow, as they compete with international creatives. “The journey isn’t smooth because sometimes our art pieces are rejected because we don’t use high-quality materials that can compete in the global market, yet no one offers us tutorials or guidelines on how to better ourselves. High-quality raw materials such as paint and canvas are imported from the US or Nigeria which is costly. For this reason, most local artists haven’t exhibited their work beyond borders,” Izere said. Dusabe is hopeful that the upcoming exhibition will provide an opportunity to showcase narratives from Rwandan culture utilising figurative art (any kind of contemporary art which keeps strong connections to the actual world). ALSO READ: Rwandan artist Dusabe set for duo exhibition in Texas, USA Izere urges other artists to remember that being a great artist isn’t just about painting and creativity—it also requires them to put their work out in the public eye to create opportunities for themselves. “Don’t create and keep your work to yourself, no one will know your talent when it’s hidden,” he added. ALSO READ: Izere set for solo art exhibition in the US Manzi views international exhibitions as an opportunity to acquire knowledge from other artists and gain valuable insight from art critics. Kwizera hopes that his collaboration with Mitochondria Gallery will result in increased global recognition of his art, and draw the attention of various art collectors. “As the gallery showcases artists from different countries, I anticipate learning about diverse African cultures and their lifestyles through the stories they create in their artworks, and also easily connecting with different artists from Africa and the diaspora,” Kwizera said. The artists highlighted that they were given enough time to prepare for the exhibition; Manzi had one month to complete the three art pieces that were chosen, Dusabe two months to accomplish five artworks of which two were selected, and Izere five weeks to finish three pieces of which two were picked for the exhibition. Who are the artists? Izere fell in love with art when his uncle, who used to draw scenes for his poems and songs, inspired him. Since primary three, he has expressed himself and his thoughts through art. Upon noticing his talent, his mother encouraged him to attend an art school and enrolled him at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He uses nature to express the power of women in simple and varied ways. ALSO READ: Local painter on using art as therapeutic tool Dusabe’s interest in art was sparked by comic books and book illustrations, and he further developed his skills by attending the Nyundo School of Art and Music, where he studied painting and illustration fundamentals. A painter and figurative artist, his primary subject is the human figure, particularly portraiture. In his paintings, he enjoys capturing the reflection and concept of family, creating memories, and depicting the importance of family and the bond it creates. ALSO READ: Art has given me confidence to communicate – local painter Manzi is a visual artist, skilled in painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and ceramics. His childhood is reflected in his work, depicting the strong courageous woman that was his mother as she worked tirelessly to provide for her three children and take care of other obligations. And this is also why Manzi’s art illustrates the strength and resilience of black women. ALSO READ: Drawing is how I express what I fear to say out loud, says 20-year-old visual artist Kwizera did not come to appreciate art until later in life, unlike many other artists who develop a love for it at a young age. As a child, he had not seen anyone create art using a brush and canvas and therefore did not find any interest in it. The kind of art he was familiar with was music, dance, and drama. In 2016, his father’s wish was fulfilled when he joined the Nyundo School of Art and Music, and he developed a deep appreciation for painting. At the school, he discovered he could express himself, share his emotions, and convey his take on life through painting. From that time, Kwizera has held the conviction that art is a way of life, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Inspired by his passion, in 2018, he decided to make art his profession. His art focuses on feelings, emotions, culture, visualisations, and beliefs.