Kacyiru can rightly be called the bonafide visual art hub of Kigali. With its dense concentration of various art collectives like the Inema Art Centre, Ivuka Arts, Concept Arts, and NIYO Art Centre.
That reputation is not about to change, as more visual artists continue to set up art studios here. The latest in this trend is the recently launched Abien Arts Centre, owned by visual artist Fabien Akimana.
The studio is located just across the road from the entrance to the SOS Children’s Village in Kacyiru, and a stone’s throw away from the Ivuka and Inema Art studios.
“I started this place because of my ambition. I have some experience about art in Rwanda because I have worked in many art galleries in the country like Ivuka, Uburanga, NIYO, so I think it’s time to start my own art mission,” said Akimana.
Prior to setting up his own studio, the artist plied his trade from the NIYO Art Centre, another of the newer additions to the visual art landscape in Kacyiru.
Asked why he chose to set up shop in the same locality, Akimana explained: “Every country has a place that is known for art, and I think in Rwanda, Kacyiru is popular for the same. For example, a place called ‘Go Down’ in Kenya is known for its many art activities. It makes it easy to market when a client knows that they will have the option of visiting other nearby art studios.”
The artist added that the studio would focus on three things; offering free art classes for children from the community that are passionate about art, public art, and art contests, among others.
Akimana is also keen on offering a platform for collaboration with fellow visual artists.
“Right now I’m alone but I want to bring in paintings of other professional artists to display in my studio. To create my own art studio has always been my ambition but I have not cut my links with my former colleagues at Ivuka and other art centres. Instead of quarreling, I collaborate with different artists on a regular basis,” he says.
He regrets the disturbing trend of talented Rwandan visual artists trekking out of the country to settle abroad. Akimana discloses that this has left such artists’ original works open to duplication by unscrupulous visual artists.
He cites the example of Richard Karekezi formerly of Ivuka Arts, who now lives in Germany and, Jean Bosco Bakunzi from Uburanga Arts Studio, who is currently residing in Canada.
“I have worked with both of them. There are many more Rwandan artists that have gone abroad and I’m in talks with them to send me their paintings through courier so that I can display them here. That way, no one will copy their works and display them as their own,” he says.
Born in 1990 in Muhanga District, Southern Province, the diminutive painter describes his style of art as expressionism, explaining that, “My paintings express themselves”. His art centres mostly on Rwandan culture, and unity in community.
He first took to painting in 2001 when he was only 11 years old and a Primary Five pupil at Nyabisindu in Gitarama.
The same year, he won first prize at a United Nations Population and Environment national art competition.