That Rwandan women continue to make great strides in different fields cannot be overstated. Most evident is in politics where women now make the majority in parliament.
However, women still remain marginal in the visual arts industry. A spot check around the mushrooming art galleries paints a grim picture: Works by female artists is wanting as men still dominate the arts. However, there are talented women artists who have defied the odds to imprint their presence on the arts sector.
Crista Uwase is a talented visual artist who has been very active in Rwanda’s art industry. Born to Kimpwani Mpwenu and Victoria Binta 26 years ago in Fort Portal, Western Uganda, Uwase is the second-born of six children. She went to Kigali Parents School until 2002, after which she joined Fawe Girls School for her ‘O’ Levels until 2005.
Uwase’s art is quite unique. She’s the only artist that experiments in her work with collage and watercolours. She says that collage calls for a lot of patience-to cut old newspapers and magazines to thin strips and stick them together, something that many artists do not have the patience for.
In school, Uwase used to easily help out by drawing for her O-Level Biology classmates.
“I could also make little drawings of special but funny instances that happened among my colleagues in class,” she recalls.
After a stint with Ivuka Arts Centre, Uwase got a job in November 2013. “I first worked at Harvest Plus, where I did stock-taking,” Uwase says.
But she later quit her job and embarked on the journey to follow her true passion: visual art and she has never looked back.
Uwase now does her artwork at Yego art centre in Kimihurura, where she’s one of the few female artists, whose work is displayed on the walls of the gallery.
Jemima Kakizi, apart from being an established painter, is also a fashion designer. She knows how to breathe life in her artwork. Kakizi’s work is vividly alive, capturing nature in its pristine form.
She says that even though she never studied art in school, the bug of art bit her when she was still at her tender age.
“I first got interested in art when I was in primary school. I remember my obsession for drawing dolls.” However, Kakizi says that when she joined High school, she didn’t immerse herself into art so much since she was still gaining experience from established artists in the industry.
“I felt that in order to harness my skills and become a complete product as far as arts is concerned, I had to learn from my seniors. And the fact that I was also studying at the time made it hard for me to solely concentrate on art.
She says women artists should now emerge and be counted among their male contemporaries. Kakizi believes it’s now also time for women to take art seriously, saying that this is one industry that they can seriously use to make a living.
“In other countries, art is taught as a subject from primary school level and people get to develop young children’s skills. Other than developing their skills, it can be an opportunity for people to discover what they are capable of doing,” says Kakizi.
In regard to making a living from her drawings, Kakizi says she cannot quantify what she makes from art because it depends on the customers she gets.
Hortance Kamikazi, 20, made her grand entry into art scene last year during an exhibition called-“My Renaissance”, and from then she has never looked back, holding several exhibitions and displaying her artwork at Yego art center, where she plies her artistic trade.
“If I were to live my parent’s dream, I would now be training as a pilot or any other profession apart from art. But it was my intractable determination to do art that finally carried the day,” she adds.
Kamikazi says that she remembers vividly the first day she was supposed to report to school of Art in Nyundo and how her father advised her to come back and choose another profession, but her passion for art carried the day.