How eight artists were inspired to open an inclusive art and culture centre

A glance at Inshuti Art and Culture Centre will leave you glued to one of the great pieces exhibited at the gallery.

The masterpiece, titled, ‘The Long Trek’, by seven young visual artists, tells a true story of Clementine Nyirabazungu, from Musanze District.

 

Born with disabilities, Nyirabazungu is a 15-year-old girl, who used to move in an old wheelchair, too hard to push due to its weariness and tear. Besides being unable to walk she also has a speech disorder.

 

Through this piece of art, they tell a true story about the girl who inspired them to create an inclusive centre so as to tell her story and touch the hearts of others to give and help others in different ways.

 

Godfrey Kalungi, Timothy Wandulu, Daniel Rukundo, Patrick Gusenga, Olivier Hodari, Solange Uwase, T. Pacifique and Bienvenue Mashakiro are the brains behind Inshuti Art and Culture Centre, in Musanze District, where they also hail from.

How it all started

While in their 20s and early 30s, these artists’ story began when some of the members occasionally met Nyirabazungu on the street, begging for food and money.

Before that, the group worked as visual artists, although they would meet on rare occasions.

“Upon seeing her one morning being pushed in her wheelchair by her younger brother, we were captured by the state of her chair with the sounds it made on the rough road. We noticed this for a few weeks until one morning while working on the centre’s outdoor sculptures, we decided to wait for her to pass by so we could approach her,” narrates Godfrey Kalungi, one of the founders.

Kalungi, who is also the proprietor of the art centre, said they wanted to know more about her struggles and the brother that takes care of her.

Nyirabazungu and her brother used to wake up early in the morning to start on a long six hour’s journey to town, and at times they would go back without getting any coin, yet most of the time they went on an empty stomach.

The wheel chair had no rubber tyres, and parts of it had worn out, were rusty and had one front tyre, while the back metallic tyres were bent due to the stony roads they rode through town.

They soon realised, after visiting the girl’s home and seeing the conditions she was living in with her family, that they truly needed help.

This inspired them to extend their friendship to them and procured a modern, new wheelchair for the girl, which brightened the smile on her face.

The group then used an old wheelchair to create an artwork that would connect their family with the community.

Besides supporting Nyirabazungu and her family, the younger brother has been able to resume school, with the help of the group.

Meanwhile, the artists have also taken in a young girl whose mother has been sick of cancer for years. But the story, they said, was more of Nyirabazungu since they met her on the streets as well.

Impact on society

Since the inception of Inshuti Art and Culture Centre in 2016, the group has been carrying out community outreach to educate the community on art and craft, especially to the young generation.

They host student sessions in the creative part, and promote and expose dress culture and fashion in general at the centre.

The artists say they are dedicated to telling the untold stories of vulnerable Rwandans through art, training children in dancing, providing them with scholastic materials, offering painting classes, as well as hosting school tour visits.

They also promote talent, facilitate and lead student creative tours.

Apart from motivational talks, the girls are trained on making jewellery, which the group believes helps keep them occupied and prevents cases of early pregnancies, which are on the rise among young girls.

Through the centre, the group has managed to pay community health insurance for at least 20 people and offer scholastic materials to 32 school-going children.

“We also collect and sell crafts from local communities generating income and offering employment to some members of the community,” adds Kalungi.

To carry out all these activities, the artists say they use their savings from their art work and other side gigs.

Inside Inshuti Art and Culture Centre‭.‬

A portrait of ‘The Long Trek' made by the group to portray a young girl who used to be pushed from home to the city to beg for money on the street.

One of the paintings by the artistes.

One of the artists working on an art piece‭. ‬

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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