A rugged strip of road off King Faisal hospital in Kacyiru leads to Ivuka Arts Centre. A giant image of a pot built from discarded plastic bottles stands tall at the gate. You also see a lot of murals and paintings. Sculptures suspended on plinths are a reminder that one is in an artist’s den.
It is 9am in the morning and the centre is already teeming with a group of artists who are busy at the back of main house, each with his tool of work in hand. Some are doing a great piece collage on the canvas spread on a big table while others are with paints and brushes in hand fashioning some great designs they hope to sell to numerous art lovers who visit the arts centre.
They all talk of when they began to realise that art was their destiny and the deep passion they have for it.
Charles Kizito, the programmes co-ordinator of the centre says Ivuka is like a sanctuary for some 15 artists working at their workshop. “Here, we have different kinds of artists: Painters, muralists, sculptures, musicians and dancers. We want to ensure that all types of arts found in Rwanda are represented here.”
Kizito adds that most artists at the centre do modern arts, though upcoming ones major in realism and abstract forms. He adds that they normally use traditional materials to create something unique.
However, he adds that arts still doesn’t pay much in Rwanda and most of them are just hanging on because that’s their passion and talent. “But I’m happy that more people are coming to appreciate arts in Rwanda, unlike five years ago when only a few, disinterested people would visit the centre.”
He says that the centre has hosted high profile people and tourists who come to purchase their work.
“I realised my passion for arts when I was about seven years old. Like other small boys at that time, I used to make vehicles using wires at home. Growing up, I didn’t have that strong passion for it because my parents insisted on books than talent. I joined Ivuka in 2010 and this is the time I took art as a profession, to the chagrin of my parents who wanted me to be an engineer.
Art in Rwanda is growing. Now we have about 15 arts studios and five galleries while others are still springing up. Years back, this was not the case. The kids are also opening their eyes and seeing that arts can just be a profession like any other.
However, the elders still don’t appreciate arts from their perspective and this is something that the needs some sensitisation to change their minds.”
The government should increase the schools of arts in the country and competition should also be encouraged so that upcoming artists showcase their potential.”
“I grew up in Belgium where art is more advanced, and people take it more seriously. I started painting when I was only six years old. I started visiting galleries when I was nine and was amazed at the kind of pieces I saw. We should copy from the Western world and have many galleries throughout the country.
We have latent talent across Rwanda which should be tapped and harnessed.
I encourage those who have passion for arts to join Ivuka and other arts centres found in Kigali to showcase their talents.
Jean Baptiste Mpungire
“When I was an 11-year-old schoolboy, I used to draw some funny figures on the desks and this got me in the bad books with my teachers. But I couldn’t just quench my passion for drawing funny figures, even of the teachers.
When I finished school Collins Sekajugo, founder of Ivuka Arts Centre, encouraged me to join him here and I have never looked back.”
I draw abstract arts and sell my pieces mostly to tourists who visit here. A piece goes for around $250. I encourage more Rwandans to enjoy arts because this is the only way their heritage is going to be preserved.”
“I come from Nyamasheke in Western Province. I used to like drawing when I was young and this passion is a part of me. After school, I figured that in order to realise my dreams, I had to move from the village and come to Kigali where there are many arts centres.”
People in the village are still ignorant about art. That’s why I had to move. It’s when I came to Ivuka that people began to appreciate my work. I’m usually happy when someone buys my piece. It shows that I’ve done a great work.”