Art takes root in Rwanda

FRANK KAGABO discovers Ivuka, the country’s first art studio Colin Sekajugo who spends most of his time painting has founded Ivuka Art Studio in Kacyiru. Sekajugo explains how it all began. “I lived in South Africa for around three years and people used to ask me about Rwandan art but I had nothing to talk about since that culture was not there.” In July 2007, he embarked on a talent search in Kigali. He invited several youths to join him at Ivuka. Now, on any one day you will find several youths engrossed in creating their different works of art.
One of a kind: Sekajugo outside his studio.
One of a kind: Sekajugo outside his studio.

FRANK KAGABO discovers Ivuka, the country’s first art studio

Colin Sekajugo who spends most of his time painting has founded Ivuka Art Studio in Kacyiru. Sekajugo explains how it all began.

“I lived in South Africa for around three years and people used to ask me about Rwandan art but I had nothing to talk about since that culture was not there.”

In July 2007, he embarked on a talent search in Kigali. He invited several youths to join him at Ivuka. Now, on any one day you will find several youths engrossed in creating their different works of art.

Believing that Rwanda’s rich culture is not well represented in art, Sekajugo hopes Ivuka will change that and bring out the best of Rwanda through art.

To further improve the work of local artists, Ivuka invites foreign artists to share their experiences and expertise with local artists.

Alice Llewellyn, a painter from London, has been working at Ivuka for two weeks. She says that working with local artists at Ivuka is really eye opening.

Llewellyn has noticed that artists in Rwanda are very expressive and the way they work is very attractive.

“Local artists are resourceful and very creative with their materials,” the British artist enthuses.

“I have come from a highly disciplined training which focuses on ‘drawmanship’. This is important, but it is equally important to experiment.”

Llewellyn spent three years at the Charles Cecil Studio in Italy, where she was formally trained. This is far removed from the experiences of the artist she found at Ivuka. Sekajugo himself has had no formal training.

Sekajugo says that he is self-taught and believes that many in Rwanda can teach themselves. By introducing an exchange program, Sekajugo hopes Ivuka will gain from the experiences of trained artists.

Llewellyn for one has been warmly welcomed by members of the studio.

“They are very open to visiting artists. This is a great opportunity for them to broaden their artistic horizons.”

Janet Wilson from South Africa was another visiting artist at Ivuka from January to June this year. Like Llewellyn, she believes both visitor and local have much to gain from the relationship.

“Rwandan and visiting artists will learn from each others experience and will improve as a result.”

“Since there is no art school in the country, it is very important to have visiting artists,” said Wilson at a recent exhibition of her Rwanda work. She explains that exhibiting is another way of raising the popularity of paintings in the country.

Sekajugo admits that at the moment many of the people who come to exhibitions are foreigners as opposed to Rwandans.

“The expatriates especially in the diplomatic community have given me a lot of support,” says Sekajugo. He explains that the market for art is very small in Rwanda and public awareness is limited.

But he hastens to add that  by creating an institution in the form of a studio, he is optimistic that this will change. He says that he is currently engaged in marketing the work of Rwandan artists abroad.

The work of Ivuka has been published in many international journals according to Sekajugo. Ivuka has also set up a website to help promote their image both locally and internationally.

Rewarding vocation

Llewellyn says that many of the Ivuka art pieces are sold at very attractive prices. Most of the pieces exhibited by Ivuka at their last exhibition were priced at around $500.

Llewellyn believes Ivuka offers a great opportunity for Rwandan artists to make a living from their work.

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