The first time I met Hortance Kamikazi Umugwaneza was at a premiere of a documentary on Rwandan contemporary art by David Helft at Umubano Hotel in Kigali. She, along with other artists, exhibited their pieces too.
The 20-year-old soft spoken and reserved lady is determined to create a name for herself in the art industry.
Born and raised in Kigali, Kamikazi’s love for art stems from her childhood. When she was six, she was inspired by her elder sister who loved drawing characters of their favourite films as cartoons.
She started her journey at Nyundo Art School in Rubavu District in the Western Province where she studied for three years. Her time in school was not easy; setbacks like her family disapproving of her choice of course put her down.
But even that didn’t stop her, as she knew all too well that the time would come when they’d finally understand why she took on art.
“Many times, relatives and friends questioned why I chose to do art. They looked at it as something that had no future, commanded no respect and above all, was a ‘poor’ way to make a living. Nevertheless, I knew that one day I would be able to look back and make them understand my decision,” she says.
Kamikazi took one leap of faith with her first solo exhibition held at Yego Art Centre in Nyarutarama in July last year for a week.
“My Renaissance”, as she chose to call it, was a call to the youth to search within themselves and provoke their passion and talent, throw away their fear and rise up to the occasion and fulfill their ambitions in life.
“During this time, I was so anxious to know how people would respond to my work but I had to be brave because I wanted to use the exhibition to show my parents and all those who were concerned about my career choice that I knew what I wanted and that there was a future in art,” she says.
The exhibition, she says, opened doors for the young artist to showcase more of her work.
“It was not about people just buying pieces, but about creating a name out there. I was not disappointed at all and from then, I got a lot of follow-ups, support and even gigs that I started earning from,” says Kamikazi.
Following a number of exhibitions that she has carried out including “My way to democracy”, Kamikazi has beaten the odds and is now referred to as “The Girl in art”.
She says like any other job, there are many challenges in doing art, like acquiring materials to use as most of them are expensive and require travel.
Kamikazi also thinks that impatience in the industry is the reason why there are few girls and women doing art.
She explains that art needs a lot of patience in terms of getting profits and also hard work and creativity so as to make an impressive picture.
Despite different artists having different styles, Kamikazi believes that girls are easily disheartened when their pieces do not garner the hype they hoped for.
She adds that with art, one must know how to market their work for people to understand why their work is unique.
Kamikazi gets better each day and has interacted with art experts in Rwanda like Pascal Bushayija and Antonio Mshimiyimana, both of whom she calls her mentors.
She attributes her work to the beauty of nature, saying that God is her first inspiration, followed by Aaron Blaise and Michelle Acelot.
Kamikazi seeks to inspire a lot of people through art. She is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in creative design at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.