‘We want more women in art and fashion design’

JEMIMA KAKIZI is a second year student of marketing at Mount Kenya University. While in senior five at Groupe Scolaire APE Rugunga, she discovered her talent in painting and a passion for fashion design. Pontian Kabeera had a chat with the 22-year-old student who has been paying her own tuition from money she earns from art pieces since her senior six.
Jemima working on an art piece. (Pontian Kabeera)
Jemima working on an art piece. (Pontian Kabeera)

JEMIMA KAKIZI is a second year student of marketing at Mount Kenya University. While in senior five at Groupe Scolaire APE Rugunga, she discovered her talent in painting and a passion for fashion design. Pontian Kabeera had a chat with the 22-year-old student who has been paying her own tuition from money she earns from art pieces since her senior six.

Who inspired you into art and design?

Initially, I didn’t have interest in art while a student in senior secondary. However, I used to go and chat with students of art in the art room during my free time. One day, a friend called Rwagasore Jean Louis asked me to try painting. I did it just for fun—without putting in any effort, but he liked my painting. This motivated me and I started going to the art room regularly.  

Within weeks, I had become an expert in painting. Later, I started fashion and designing. Other people such as Sezerano Onesime, Niyonsaba Serge, and Birasa Bernard have advised and taught me many things.

What have you achieved so far?

I have been able to offload the burden of paying my tuition from my parents. I started paying for my tuition since when I was in senior six and I pay it in time. From my work, I can also afford my basic needs that I used to seek from parents. Art and design has, more importantly, introduced me to different classes of people who come to buy my paintings.

What exactly do you do in artistic paint and designing?

I do portrait abstractions—that is things which you can see without any one explaining to you. In fashion, I design clothes for children, men and women. I also design wedding gowns and many more.

Where do you buy your materials from?

We buy them from across the region—but mainly Kenya and Uganda. However there are some items we import from outside Africa.

Where do you work from?

I work with Ivuka Art Centre, an art gallery in Kigali, Kacyiru.

What are some of the challenges that you face in the industry?

Well, it’s not all that easy to get materials for artistic paintings. Secondly, Rwandans think that art paintings are very expensive and this poses challenges in as far as demand is concerned.

In fashion and design it’s very hard to find fabrics here in the country and those that are available can’t be found in all types and required quantities.

What are some of your memorable moments?

My greatest moment came when I designed a dress for Miss Rwanda 2012 and King James, the winner of Primus Guma Guma season 11. It was also great when I won the Best Female Creative Artist of the year award during the first edition of Rwanda Women Festival, 2014.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself doing great work in art and designing and recognised locally and internationally.

How do you balance work and studies?

It’s very challenging, but I try to budget for my time very well. I work during the day and go to school in the evening.

Who do you live up to?

Collins Sekajugo, the founder of Ivuka Art Centre, who inspires me so much. He is a very hard working man who has moved the industry to a high level and many Rwandan artists derive inspiration from him.

Do you have a message to girls out there?

There is a project for Rwanda girls at Ivuka Art Centre in Kacyiru and we encourage all girls to come and join. We want to see more Rwandan women in the fashion and design plus art industry.

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