Meet the Rwandan artist whose work is getting global recognition

Through sheer grit and hard work, Abdoul Mujyambere has made a name for himself as one of the most respected performing and visual artists in Rwanda. 

He explores themes like performing body, memory, identity and visual archives.

 

 Mujyambere is among 50 African artists, whose projects will be funded by Africalia. He was excited to receive the good news.

 

 “It was my first time to apply for an international fund and winning €1500 (about Rwf1.67m) was really awesome,” he says.

 

 His project is a combination of different art forms; photography, dance performance and film. He will work with six to ten dancers and one of them will be a kid.

 The 30-year-old artist fell in love with movement at a very tender age, when he started feeling the passion to dance.

 “I was probably three to four years when I started dancing. Back then, we used to live in Huye before my family moved to Kigali in 1995,” he recalls.

 Mujyambere traces his early inspiration in performing arts to his family

  “I might have inherited my father’s genes; he was a martial artist. I also loved to watch action movies and was familiar with actors like Jean Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan and Jet Lee, while growing up,” he recalls.

 He attended the first part of his secondary school education in Byumba (current-ly Gicumbi District), before joining St. Andre in Nyamirambo. 

Later on, he studied art and languages at the then National University of Rwanda (NUR), now University of Rwanda (UR).

 While at the university he was mostly focusing on contemporary dance but he later decided to explore other art forms like yoga, capoeira, photography, theatre, films and fashion. 

In 2015, he enrolled for a three years dancing course in Dakar, Senegal after moving to the US in 2014 to pursue theatre studies in Massachusetts.

 Like many artists, Mujyambere has a special role model who inspired him to follow his passion.

 “If there’s one artist who inspires me then it’s Carol Karemera of Ishyo Arts Centre. She’s quite talented and just like me, a multi-disciplinary artist. She has achieved a lot of things and I really respect her,” he noted. 

Mujyambere’s style of work is very unique because he takes his time to come up with ideas which he later carefully turns into reality.

 “I take a lot of time writing the concept of what I am going to do in any art form. It’s only after all the details are ready and convincing, that I proceed into produc-tion,” he said, adding he finds joy in seeing his work being shared internationally.

 “I was very proud when my work “The Memoire” on contemporary dance and “Body Memories” on visual art travelled outside the country,”

 “I have performed twice in Madagascar the first time being in 2017 and mid last year. I directed a conceptual film and a series of photographs in Mauritius Island and also in different festivals in Kampala, Uganda,” he recalls.

 His message to upcoming artists is very brave as it focuses more on producing quality works and not money, for quality brings in money naturally.

 “I would advise the upcoming artists not to focus a lot on the money because if you are trying to make money and acquire skills at the same time, you end up failing. It’s good to choose one and it will bring the other,” he advises, though he goes on to cite lack of funding as one of the main challenges facing Rwandan artists.

 “It’s hard to source for funds locally because the type of productions that we do involves a big budget. If it’s a theatre production for example, you would need to pay actors and technical crew. There are also costumes, locations, lighting, and sound among others. All these require money,” he says.

 Mujyambere’s schedule is always tight and is currently on tour in France and Brussels with Ishyo Arts Centre. They are working on a production with more than twenty other artists from Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and Congo. 

The artist has big dreams for the future.

 “In 10 years, I look forward to producing art on an international standard. I will have established a strong institution in Rwanda that will collaborate with local and international artists,” he says. 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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