Art is a language and therapy, says self-taught recycled paper artist

His artwork stands out in the art gallery at Envision Media Arts Collective, Gishushu. What is uniquely striking, however, is the collection of paper crafts in different shapes and sizes skilfully displayed. Aimable Mugabo, the brains behind the paintings and paper craft, ditched his career dreams of electronics and telecommunications to pursue his passion, art. He shares with People’s Sharon Kantengwa his passion and unique art collection.

When and how did you realise you were an artist?


I grew up around cousins who were artists and I was interested in doing whatever they were doing. Towards the end of high school, I wondered what I was going to do afterwards as a career. I realised that art was the only thing that helped me feel alive, and the only thing I wanted to pursue even though I was aware I wasn’t going to earn enough money from it.


In the end, I had to choose between electronics and art and the latter won. I started professionally pursuing my dream in 2017 at the Kanyaburanga Art Center before shortly joining Envision Media Arts Collective.


Do you have any intentions of furthering your education?

I want to get a bachelor’s degree in business and maybe eventually I can run my art business. In 2017, I registered a business, Harmony ventures, which was selling paper craft and my paintings as well. I used that company to attend different markets and exhibitions and sell my products.

Paper craft is quite unique, how did you venture into it?

In high school, the teachers advised students to avoid littering paper, especially in examination rooms. We were required to leave extra paper in the classroom to avoid littering. I was curious about how it is made and what more I could do with paper. I did my research in the art field and I realised different kinds of paper crafts like origami, a Japanese kind of art where paper is used to make different objects like birds. However, it’s not something that lasts long. Soon I stumbled upon another method that was stronger and beautiful to decorate, which is what I’m currently doing.

Your paper crafts appear similar to the Rwandan traditional objects, why is this?

I wanted to blend it with the cultural aspect, doing Imigongo, Agaseke, and other objects, with modern craft. I am also sketching something to expand my collection.

What was it like introducing this form of art to the Rwandan market?

At first it was very challenging for me but when I showed them on Instagram, people were amazed. In 2018 I made my first solo exhibition that attracted many people who gave amazing feedback and demand for the paper craft.

I have since had diverse clients but mostly tourists because they are more curious about this kind of art.

Between painting and paper craft, where does your passion lean towards most?

Painting is special for me, that is where I tend to lean towards most and I’m very cautious. I have to plan, and make sure it’s the moment. However, since paper craft was a skill that I developed and realised that it was impactful to society and the environment, I am concentrating on developing the skill. Eventually I trained a friend and colleague and I’m planning to train others.

What challenges have you encountered in your journey?

I recycle materials but there are other materials, I need to add flair to the craft, smoothen and make it durable, the varnish that I use for this is hard to find in this country. The other challenge is that demand is too high for my ability which is why I want to train other people because it is a long process to come up with a finished product.

What are your hopes and dreams for your art?

I plan to reach out to as many people and share my skill. I’m self-taught but my skill can be helpful. I want to impact people in a way that they can realise that recycling in this age is very important, including plastic.

For my paintings, I do mostly abstract art, I want people to be inspired by it in different ways. Art is a language and therapy because I do the best art when I am tired and angry. My art is a mystery but I love watching it, and I love the fact that I don’t understand it. I want people to be impacted by that because people are afraid of not understanding something yet it’s ok to let it out even if it doesn’t make sense.

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