A young Rwandan visual artist wins Africalia grants

Joshua Biseruka has won a grant aimed at supporting visual artistes and creatives in the new coronavirus times.

The 27-year-old is a Rwandan visual artist based in Kigali, applied for the ‘Creativity is Life’ grants, which were announced by Africalia in May, this year.

 

The excited artist said when Africalia announced a call for grants targeting artists in Africa, he decided to try his luck. Biseruka, then quickly brainstormed on a project idea and applied.

 

Africalia is an incubation programme for African cultural and creative business. The grants aim at supporting the production of artistic works during, in response to or following the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The soft-spoken sketcher is one of the successful Africa artists, who will receive the 1500 Euro grant (approximately Rwf1.6m). He was very excited to receive the good news.

 “I told members of my family and friends that I won some funding and will make a big project and they were equally elated,” he recalled.

 Biseruka will use the grant to work on an online scrolling graphic novel, which will contain his work.

 “It is an online book where you scroll to see my work. It will be composed of my sketches from different parts of the country,” he explained

 He collects data about the everyday lives of people, then designs and makes it accessible to everyone interested in Rwandan culture.

 In 2017, Biseruka was one of 15 African artists shortlisted in Belgian Art Prize. In 2018, he emerged the winner in a competition that took place in Gisenyi, where artists had been asked to draw their own portraits.

 In September last year, Biseruka attended the East Africa Creative Programme in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that was conducted by the British Council. He was trained on how to start a business in the art industry. He participated as a graphic novel writer and he started a project about Ethiopia.

 Biseruka is inspired by the work of Jeroen Janssein, an art trainer from Belgium. He was his teacher at Nyundo School of Arts.

 “He always asks me what I am working on and gives me tasks that keep me busy” he added.

 When he is not working as a visual artist, Biseruka likes to write poems and has a 218-page book, full poems that he has written.

 Most of his poems are inspired by real life experiences such as romance and love. He also works as a sculptor, painter, illustrator and art trainer.

 According to Biseruka, upcoming visual artists should work without thinking about money, but their work will naturally bring in money if it is of good quality.

 “If you are guided by passion, money will find you at the opportune time. Like for me now, I am a trainer and I can foot my bills without a problem,” he added

 Like in other fields, the young artist meets some challenges and ups and downs.

 “We don’t have a reliable local source where we can buy professional tools for our craft and people don’t take us seriously because they don’t appreciate the value of our work,” Biseruka noted.

Biseruka said that when people do not understand your work means there is no demand for the art work.

 “You find that most of my clients are foreigners. I wish it was the other way round,” he pointed out.

His artistic bug hit him when he was in primary school where he used to imitate images from the journals. He later joined Nyundo School of Arts in Rubavu where he majored in sculptor-ceramic. 

It seems like art runs deep in his family because his young brother Kubwayo Theoneste studied at Nyundo School of Arts too. He majored in graphic art.

 One of his favorite hobbies is reading historical books because he likes to know more about history. His favorite food is the Rwandan traditional food with ‘Isombe’, the local delicacy. He has big dreams for the future

 “In ten years’ time, I would like to be a legend as a visual artist. The kind of status where people know my name and my country. I also look forward to starting a reputable studio of arts in Rwanda,” he noted.

 Biseruka is a member of Sankofa Creative Limited located in Gikondo where they write and publish children’s books.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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