Many know him for his skill at tattoo art, but Henry Peter refuses to be boxed into the description. Instead, he considers himself a versatile and multi-disciplinary artist:
“I’m a guy who likes to try new things so I do painting, tattoos, graffiti … any art form I always give it a try,” reveals the 20-year-old.
However, his portfolio of tattoo works easily stands out, perhaps partly because tattoo art is a relatively new entry on the local art scene, with barely a handful of skilled and professional practitioners.
This is despite the fact that tattoo art was the last thing he learnt after trying a hand at the other art forms he currently practices.
In fact, it’s only in 2014 that he embarked on tattoo art, although he had been drawing and painting virtually all his lifetime.
“I had an Indian friend who studied tattoo art professionally. He was doing tattoos and saw that I was good at art and suggested that we partner and do something bigger. We will get back to work in March when he returns to Rwanda.”
He was “too young” at the time the artist in him started to manifest. At the time, he was only in kindergarten in Nyamirambo where he was born and raised.
“I would see things outside of the classroom and then draw them. I used to get punished for that by my teachers because I was not focused in my studies,” he explains, adding that this did not discourage him “because I’m a guy that never gives up.”
“At home my parents used to tell me that it’s not a good thing because I was losing focus on my studies and I used to get punished for it, but as I persisted in my passion they started to understand and accommodate me.”
The artist bears a handful of tattoos on his back, invisible until he strips of his shirt, and that hold special dates and memories in his life.
“Tattoo is all about memory. It could be quotes from someone who died but that you love, or was born on that date, or any special thing you would not want to forget, for instance it could be a portrait of your mum who died but whose memories you still cherish,” he explains.
Asked how he finds clients for his services Peter retorts;
“If you do something good, it brings people itself. Someone sees a tattoo, likes it, and asks where it was made. Others get to learn of my works through social media.”
This year, he enrolled at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) to study Civil Engineering. However, he is quick to add that engineering is not his destiny;
“I want to switch courses from Civil Engineering to Architecture because I prefer architecture to engineering. Actually it was my first choice at university but I didn’t get it.”
At university, he studies from morning till noon, before retreating to his artistic world, to which he devotes at least three hours every day. On weekends, he devotes even more time to his art workshop.
Currently he is planning his maiden solo exhibition later this year, and at which he intends to showcase twenty large paintings, four of which are already complete.
His parting words:
“I want to be a person who will design our country and renovate buildings and bring special designs that have never existed in Africa.”