Meet Karekezi, the talented self-taught visual artist

Karekezi, a self-taught visual artist, demonstrates his impressive skills during visit at The New Times offices, re-cently. Photos by Sam Ngendahimana.

William Karekezi started his career as a visual artist when he was just 17 years old. Before that, he would draw comics with his friends at school.

When he was walking around his neighbourhood, he came across an art gallery, and thought it was luck. He started painting from there, and then started making money through art.

Karekezi is 26 years old now, and has two art galleries of his own; Indiba Arts Space, and Indiba Art Heaven, which serves as a restaurant, and an art gallery at the same time.

The logo for Indiba is feet. This is because he thinks we learn from experience. “I think feet represent knowledge. The knowledge we have is everywhere we have been.”

When he ventured in art, he was more “interested in doing more for money”, and he describes himself at that time, as a “hungry kid”. But he later learnt that it is not about money, but rather “about the story you want to tell. It is not about money because if it was, your work will not live forever”.

“For me, when I just started it was about doing a lot, but now I give it time, and also understand well what I want to say”. He thinks one should concentrate on how they inspire with their stories.

Unlike other artists, who meet challenges of lacking materials at the beginning of their career, Karekezi says his major challenge was “expressing” himself, until now. “I always find it very hard to express myself. Sometimes you don’t know which way you are going to do it”.

“What I used to call challenges, I found out there are millions of people with more challenges. I could use what I had, to create what I could”, he said, saying he no longer says getting material was a challenge.

One of his projects now at Indiba Arts Space is hosting international artists, by giving them shelter and a place to work from. “I wanted to create somewhere artists will come and exchange knowledge and experience because I wanted to contribute to the Rwandan art in general. So Indiba will be a bridge between local and international artists”.

His upcoming project is an exhibition, ‘modern exodus’, inspired by a question if ‘civilisation is a sense of losing humanity’. This exhibition will include many of his masterpieces.

Asked what his surprises have been in his artistic career, he said it is his life through art. “I just believed in myself, but I didn’t see a way”. 

Karekezi solely depends on his art. He suggests, “Rwandans should go deeper in the work they see, by trying to understand the messages”. He adds on that people should not have a misconception that ‘art is only for white people’. And also, make research on important topics, to be informed.

At Indiba Arts Space, they host community art classes, and there is one taking place on the 13th this month.

They have also partnered with the community to pay health insurance for 30 needy children, mutuelle de sante, after Umuganda, the monthly community work, earlier this year.

Karekezi is a self-taught, and the first in his family to become an artist. He not only paints, but also makes wooden and metallic sculptures.

He has many projects in progress, including tours around Africa, Europe and the U.S.

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