The colourful mosaic of a gate outside the Ivuka Arts Centre is both inviting and enticing. Passersby are tempted to stop in and view the extensive artwork on display there. This is the aim of the centre — to bring people together — which is exactly what Collin Sekajugo has accomplished since he founded the centre in 2004.
The self-taught Ugandan-Rwandan artist founded Ivuka Arts with the idea of aiding young aspiring artists and giving them an opportunity to showcase their work. Since its humble beginning, Ivuka has become one of the most well-known arts centres in Rwanda.
The New Times interviewed Ivuka’s programme co-ordinator Charles Kizito on the afternoon of January 10th. Charles, a handsome Rwandan casually dressed in a flannel shirt and flip flops, describes himself as “the artist behind the artist”. As programme coordinator, his responsibilities include administration, marketing, and managing the centre.
Now, almost 10 years since the centre was founded, former street children who were taken in by Sekajugo have since opened their own spaces in and around Kigali. Kizito estimates that the centre has helped between 100 and 150 street kids so far and the artists involved have had exhibitions not just in Kigali but also in as far reaching destinations as the US, Europe and several countries in Africa.
Sekajugo, the founder of Ivuka, was a member of a group of artists living in Kigali. He wanted to create a platform for young disadvantaged youth and genocide survivors to express themselves through art. In addition to providing materials for creating visual art, the centre created a children’s dance troupe, the Rwamakondera Dance Troupe, which continues to meet for practice on weekends.
The showroom itself is quite compact, the whitewashed walls covered in colourful paintings and the floors lined with stacks of artwork. This small showroom manages to house the work of 15 different artists and the space just behind provides living quarters for two of them.
Jean-Baptiste Rukundo, one of the artists at Ivuka Arts Centre, describes in an interview with The New Times the place as “a space to work and raise talented young individuals”. Before he came to the centre three years ago, the now 23-year-old studied sculpture at an art school in Gisenyi. The Ivuka group exhibitions finally gave him the opportunity to show his talents to a wider audience.
Another artist, 26-year-old Jean-Baptiste Mpungirene, profits from the centre as well. Before he began working at Ivuka, he was employed as a moto-driver in Ruhengeri. After a chance encounter with Sekajugo, Mpungirene decided to develop his talent and now expresses his feelings through colourful artwork.
“This centre gives me a lot. I get to know new people and other cultures. It’s an added bonus that I can benefit financially from my art”, says Mpungirene.
The Ivuka Arts Centre can be seen as the gold standard for gallery and foundations around Kigali. With its humble origins and impressive track record, Ivuka is an inspirational place, where creative minds can unify and produce art that is both beautiful and meaningful.