Inema Arts Center has opened a permanent, professional art gallery at Heaven Restaurant & Inn, creating more space for contemporary painters in the city.
The gallery focuses primarily on promoting and selling the work of Rwandan artists, said Emmanuel Nkuranga, co-founder of Inema Arts Center, but international artists are welcome to apply to have their work displayed.
“There are many Rwandan artists who don’t have the space to showcase art,” Nkuranga said.
By providing permanent gallery space at Heaven, Nkuranga hopes Inema Arts Center will enable young artists to find clients for their work. All art on display will be for sale.
Nkuranga and his brother, Innocent Nkurunziza, have maintained a relationship with the popular Kiyovu eatery since it opened in 2008, hosting community events and showcasing designs to promote Rwandan art.
Heaven has also maintained a gallery for years, allowing different artists to showcase their work.
“A lot of the people coming through our restaurant are expatriates or foreign residents,” Selye said. “They would ask us about what was going on in Kigali and so we exhibit art for that reason.”
John Selye, general manager of Heaven, said the restaurant decided to make their relationship with Imena permanent because of their shared commitment to promote Rwandan art.
“We think Inema represents the direction of Kigali right now in the artistic world,” Selye said.
And the direction of art in Kigali is heavily focused on the co-operative model, with organisations like Inema providing space for artists to create and a community from which to draw inspiration.
Nkuranga and Nkurunziza opened Imena Arts Center in Kacyiru in 2012 with space for 10 artists in residence to create and display their work.
William Ngenda, a contemporary painter who has worked full-time as an artist since 2004, paints and teaches art classes at Yego Arts centre.
He said the co-operative has given him access to connections that allow him to sell his work in such a competitive market. When Ngenda first started painting 19 years ago, he said there were only three artists working and that number has since grown bigger over the years.
Ngenda also thinks more gallery space will encourage the next generation of artists.
“I think if they open the gallery, among some visitors, there will be some people interested in being artists,” Ngenda said.
The gallery will follow the restaurant’s hours, opening at 5 p.m. seven days a week and between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday during brunch.