How Sezerano stumbled into the world of art and fell in love

Onesime Sezerano does what he does best at his home in Kagugu. / Photos by Olivier Mugwiza.

He may be regarded as one of Rwanda’s established visual artists but Onesime Sezerano never saw himself pursuing art as profession, having grown up aspiring to be a scientist. 

The 30-year-old, despite being talent with drawing skills since childhood, wanted to pursue sciences.

 

However, upon completion of O’Level, as fate would have it, his results in national exams were not good enough to allow him continue with sciences in A’Level and that is how he decided to go for something he had the skills but lacked the passion at the time.

 

“I have come to realize that experience is a set of errors. To me, there are things I would be regretting now if I had not followed arts,” Sezerano told The New Times in an exclusive interview.

 

Born in Rubavu District, Sezerano is the first-born in a family of five children. As a child, Sezerano proved to be a gifted visual artist who simply showed his talent at a tender age.

He would draw things as he saw them and his father was always excited to see his son draw. Whatever he drew came out even better than the original.

He advised his son to join Nyundo School of Arts upon completing his ordinary level studies so they can help him nurture his talent. However, Sezerano was not interested in anything other than sciences.

As fate would have it, he did not perform as expected in sciences when results came out. Pursuing art seemed to be the only way out, after all this is where he excelled.

Sezerano is a self-taught painter who is passionate about all things art.

“I never imagined myself doing visual arts as a profession.  Everyone would tell me to follow visual arts but I loved sciences. I even applied to study sciences, while preparing for ordinary level examinations but my grades weren’t good enough for me to qualify for sciences,” said Sezerano.

“That’s how I ended up in arts and here I am,” he added.

Starting from scratch

Upon graduating in fine art, specialising in painting and crafts, he never looked back. He relocated to Kigali to start a new life after his friend promised to help him settle in.

“Starting a new life in Kigali seemed impossible because I had no money but I a friend of mine helped and showed me how I can use art to earn a living,” he revealed.

It took him three years to make people believe what he was doing and his friend helped him promote his ordinary paintings in his connections.

Sezerano draws the map of Rwanda in The New Times colours.

His patience paid off in 2012 when he sold his very first painting to an American customer for $80 (about Rwf60,000) after she was impressed by his artwork.

“I remember that time the American lady ordered three more paintings for the same price and that’s when I started to believe that I am on the right path,” he said.

 Art is now what defines Sezerano’s home place in Kagugu. Art pieces are seen hanging on the walls in his house while a special corner in the house is reserved for keeping the artworks.

Paints, ball pens, pencils and colours are his main tools for his daily painting duties.

 Like an artist who wants to get far, Sezerano says he looks up to visual arts icon Epa Binamungu, who he says inspired him to always create something new around his artworks.

“I remember the day Binamungu told me I still have a long way to go to become a true artist to reckon with. The day I thought I was already a top visual artist was the same day I realized that what he said to me was true. And it helped me so much,” he said.

 The artist has been making huge sales through his works, including a painting he sold in 2017 at $3, 000 to a US-based Rwandan national.

The sales and exposure were boosted by different art competitions and festivals he participated in, including representing Rwanda at the Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni festival (JAMAFEST) previously held in Uganda, and f ArtRwanda-Ubuhanzi, an initiative that detects and nurtures talents in the young generation.

“Thanks to f ArtRwanda-Ubuhanzi, we learnt how to turn our talents into profitable businesses. It gave a platform and connections to boost our trade,”

He uses pencils‭, ‬watercolours‭, ‬ball pens and crayons to paint‭. ‬

“With the training we got, I know what to do to succeed in this journey and I believe the package I have can get me very with my career,” said the artist, who was among the top ten finalists of the first edition of ArtRwanda-Ubuhanzi.

Though many people can get his work from his home, Sezerano’s main paintings are found in an art gallery located at Kigali Business Centre (KBC) and some at Kigali Arts Centre.

His paintings are inspired by culture, something he says should not be separated and, besides business, he does not do visual arts just to make money but to also communicate with his audience through art.

“Art can speak, spread the message and I believe it is an efficient tool that can play a big role to change people in one way or another. So, it’s an honour to do what I love most to inspire the society,” he said.

Future plans

 In the next five years, Sezerano is targeting to become a visual artiste who can do artworks that compete at the international stage and attract global market.

 He is, for instance, among ten local visual artists who are competing to partner with French celebrated graffiti artist ESTIM to create a mural in Kigali which will represent the Visit Rwanda-Paris Saint-Germain partnership.

 “That would hopefully be my very starting point of my journey to the international stage,” he said.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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