Rwanda artists urged to preserve heritage through art

A rugged road leads you to an idyllic farm where Epa Binamungu established his Inganzo Arts Gallery, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 
Feisal Osman (L) and Epa Binamungu. (Joseph Oindo)
Feisal Osman (L) and Epa Binamungu. (Joseph Oindo)

A rugged road leads you to an idyllic farm where Epa Binamungu established his Inganzo Arts Gallery, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

As two hired buses full of artists descend on the farm located about three kilometres from Masaka trading centre, an idyllic scenery of a countryside setting with green farmlands welcome you. 

It is a cool Monday morning as the buses snail their way into this sleepy village. 

Excited, barefoot children emerge from their homes to marvel at the two contraptions that have today intruded into their solemnity. The artists are here to take part in a global arts project dubbed, Imago Mundi, aimed at bringing the artists together to market their work internationally.

The project aims to tell the story of Africa-the multiculturalism of its many nations-through creativity and responsibility of numerous artists each using a personal language to “produce arts aimed at the world.”

We descend into the serene farm and are warmly welcomed by our host Uwimana and Feisal Osman, Imago Mundi’s Project Representative in Africa.

Over 50 artists gather in a tent erected in a lush open yard and after exchanging a few pleasantries, Osman briefs them about the project and what they are expected to do.

Each artist is provided with a piece of paper where they are expected to indicate their names, their manifestos and the names of exhibitions they have taken part in. This is an important piece of paper the project is going to use in producing a volume in which their artwork and their identities are going to be detailed to market them to global audience.

They are then provided with canvasses on which they are expected to paint what comes into their minds. 

Armed with paintbrushes, acrylic paints, tempera and the newly acquired canvasses, each artist proceeds to a white metallic stand specifically erected for the day’s business: To produce a marquee piece of painting the project will use in their mission to expose them internationally.

Under the dazzling African light illuminating their artistic production, they descend on the task at hand. The excited weaver birds building their nests on top of a nearby tree is a welcome source of entertainment; with their serenading chirping as they fly in and out bringing a musical touch as the artists put their heads down to paint.

After three hours, they finish the job, and the beautiful paintings are hanged on a large metallic board to dry. From here, you can discern that the country has talented artists capable of producing beautiful talking art. Their pieces are breathtaking. The contents depict a synthesis of both Rwanda tradition and Western imaginary arts.

“You as artists should take pride in yourselves because you are the legislators of society. Art is a powerful speaking tool that should be used to transform the society into an ideal one, apart from immortalising its cultural heritage,” says Osman.

He adds that having traveled extensively the whole world and seen different pieces of art work in different countries, Rwanda has talented artists that are capable of standing tall among established peers in the world.

“Somebody shouldn’t discourage you that art is not a lucrative job that should be shunned if you need to make it in life. Art is like any other profession and what you as artists need are to produce exquisite pieces and extensively market yourselves to global audience,” he advises them.

“You should creatively use the available local resources in your society to produce aesthetic pieces that speak for themselves,” he urges.

Osman challenges new artists to come out and take the creative mantle from their elder counterparts, saying that young artists should be sponsored and exposed to enable them become the country’s next generation of cultural ambassadors.

The project drew together artists from art galleries and centers in Kigali. Pascal Busheyeija, 56, and a veteran painter of 35 years praised such initiatives as Imago Mundi project adding that Rwanda has made progress in art industry and upcoming artists should be encouraged to take it to the next level.

Augustine Hakizimana of Uburanga Arts Center said it was a joyous occasion bringing all artists together to network and share ideas, while Bruce Niyonkuru of Ivuka Arts Center said it was inspiring to see various artists turning up to showcase and share their artistic skills.

Jemima Kakizi, an artist and fashion designer called upon women to come out and challenge the traditional stereotype that art is a preserve for men, adding that many women are still shy to venture into art despite their talents.

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