The inaugural Kigali Photo Festival opens to the public today, June 7, as a weeklong celebration of photography and the importance of images.
The festival, to be hosted at the Kigali Centre for Photography in Kacyiru, is a collaborative initiative between youthful photographers Jacques Nkinzingabo from Rwanda, and Oscar Kibuuka Mukisa from Uganda, both self-taught photographers.
The theme for the nine-day festival is; ‘In Search of Relevance: Locality and Remediation’.
“Kigali Photo Fest is the first of many initiatives by the Kigali Centre for Photography and supporting partners to bring together, grow and engage with photography as an art medium on the continent,” Nkinzingabo explained the rationale behind the festival.
He added: “This is an artist-led festival founded by photographers to bring together other photographers on the continent to build, support, and help communities in the crucial task of educating audiences about photography, and to understand inclusiveness and authenticity within this context.”
One of Oscar Kibuuka’s photographs. / Courtesy
Robinah Nansubuga, an independent curator from Kampala, Uganda is tasked with curating the Kigali Photo Fest.
“When Nkinzingabo and Kibuuka contacted me about curating this festival, it was very timely for me, because photography as a medium of art is something we are not very aware of on the continent. We do not take it as a medium of art. It is also a very hard medium to sell sustainably. We’re in a generation where everyone has a phone. Would anyone buy a photograph to have as an art work on his wall when they have a phone? We have to educate our audiences and Kigali Photo Fest is starting to initiate these conversations,” Nansubuga explained.
“My work mostly revolves around artists that I call minority artists – artists whose work you do not get to see in galleries. Galleries are mostly commercial, so if you’re an artist whose work is not commercial then you can’t be invited there. Because I’m much interested in alternative spaces, I like creating space for every artist in whatever capacity they come in and whichever way they operate. Many other institutions are academic, so we have to cater for another type of artist who are self-taught.”
For Kibuuka, the festival is an extension of his passion in youth culture and youth energy that has seen him document break dance and skateboarding in the region using his camera.
“Nkinzingabo and I met in 2013 over Facebook and we were both young passionate photographers which we still are. We had back and forth conversations about photography because he’s self-taught and I’m self-taught. There was a lot to exchange and the relationship kept developing until I started travelling to Rwanda and him travelling to Uganda and exchanging opportunities and ideas about photography and it went beyond until we started creating initiatives together and making them happen,” Kibuuka said, adding: “My work is mostly based on showcasing the side of Africa that not everyone gets to see. I try to showcase the Africa around me, as I see it.”
Oscar Kibuuka Mukisa is expected for the Kigali Photo Festival. / Courtesy
As part of the festival, Kibuuka will be exhibiting some of his work on break dance communities and their impact on young people.
“We want to showcase the diversity of photography from different communities under different themes and the different approaches towards the art form.”
About the theme of the festival, ‘In Search of Relevance: Locality and Remediation’, Nansubuga noted: “It (the theme) is a big deal because we are going back to something local and what each photographer thinks in his or her local context. And remediation -we are bringing back memories, whether good or bad, because photographs evoke emotions, and the visual aspect flatters our memory. So we are searching for the relevance of locality and remediation.”
Apart from the main festival space at the Kigali Center for Photography, there will be a string of side events at the Innovation Village in Kacyiru, Kandt House Museum, Maison de Jeunes in Kimisagara, and Club Rafiki in Nyamirambo. There will be a panel discussion on Women in Photography, on human rights cultures, and masters sharing photography tips, among others.