Mpungirehe takes his art gallery in Nyirangarama

Jean Baptiste Mpungirehe shows off some of his paintings. Courtesy.

Two magnificent art pieces adorn the walls of the new Ivuka art gallery situated in Nyirangarama, Rulindo District.

The message behind most of the art pieces depict people in various stations in life to simply accept all situations, and have a positive outlook in life.


The art gallery, which is scheduled to open on January 31, is the brainchild of Jean Baptiste Mpungirehe, who used to be an apprentice of Collins Sekajugo, the founder of the old Ivuka art gallery at Kacyiru, a suburb Kigali city. 


As he says: “If you do not have something today, tomorrow you will get it”. So the artist wants to help his neighbours see the opportunities that they can make through art.


From designing posters at Ivuka art gallery in Kacyiru, to riding a motorcycle all night, Mpungirehe has seen it all.

The new gallery at Nyirangarama, which is yet to be opened, will be situated near his home where he stays. But to get there, he says he maneuvered his way through the complex and sometimes unfathomable waters of life.

How it all started...

The young man’s bittersweet journey as an artist started way back in Musanze where he was born;

“I grew up in an area with a tradition for sculpture and that’s why I am opening up an art gallery, with the aim of teaching the youth, who are passionate about art that they can make ends meet through the art,” he says.

Also, he says the neighborhood he grew up in nurtured his budding talent as an artiste.

“There were art studios where at my place, and as a curious kid, I would dash to the art studios after school to peek at the art pieces as they were being painted, this had a profound influence on me,” he says.

 “My aspiration is to make other coming artists   see the opportunities and know that they can make through art,” he explained.

Like most Rwandans, Mpungirehe, together with his family, returned to Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Owing to the fact that he did not speak Kinyarwanda, which was the language of instruction, he had to repeat the primary one which added to his dismay.

But he persevered and started to catch up with the others and in 2003, he finished primary school.

“By secondary school, I knew that I had the blood of a painter running through my veins; teachers would ask me to illustrate for them in biology and geography class, and sometimes I would fill all my books with sketches and drawing of animals and people’s faces,” he adds.

In his work, he uses acrylic and oil paints, palette knife, brushes. Sometimes recyclable materials like cloth on canvass to make what is known as mixed media installation, which is very popular with white clientele, according to him.

Mpungirehe’s art piece of size 90x60 cm costs around Rwf380,000, while a piece of around 20x30 cm costs around Rwf90,000.

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