Rwanda’s society is only nowslowly awakening to the appreciation of art. This has made being a local artist challenging. Despite the pain of unprofitability, Epaphrodite Binamungu, 56, a painter and proprietor of Inganzo Art Gallery has used his passion for art and to build is his career.
He explains that his fame is a result of exhibition cost. He has used exhibitions as a marketing strategy to interest the local people in his art work.
However, being popular hasn’t been an efficient way of gathering money.
“People don’t listen. Those who listen don’t buy and those with money don’t buy,” he says.
But Binamungu hasn’t compromised the quality of his art to make quick sales. Neither has he reduced on the intensity of his exhibitions.
Pointing at one of his finished pieces worth Rwf300, 000, hanged on the wall, he says that, “its within the same price range with other art pieces.”
In his 37 years spent doing professional art, Binamungu said that, more foreigners than Rwandan’s buy his art. For that reason, he has had international exhibitions in France, USA, Sweden and in the East African region.
On the other hand, he said that the nature of art should be determined by one’s ability and not about money alone.
“It is not about the money. I do art because I love it. But around here if you want the money, it should be a combination of beauty and message in the art work you do,” he said.
Pascal Bushayija, is a 52 year-old artist living in Kigali.
He explains that there are months of high sales and low sales.
“During the first months its okay but the following months is a period of low on sales,” Bushayija says.
Bushayija explained that there was an increased response by Rwandans to art work during the aftermath of the genocide and others buy the art pieces because culture is reflected.
Laurent Hategikimana, 43 years, is a sculptor who does his work indoors to avoid the rent incurred from a gallery.
But in the past he used exhibitions as a platform to sell his art pieces. However, he said that for two years he hasn’t exhibited his products. He sometimes teaches to earn extra income.
Binamungu says that some Rwandan artists have resorted to doing other jobs alongside their art work. “Some do other jobs because of the little money they get from art,” he says.
Binamungu is also the Chairman of Isoko, the association that brings together Rwandan artists. There are over 30 artists in Rwanda though 22 are registered under the association.
“I believe that when we come together we will be stronger, be able to access financial assistance and also exhibit more to interest more Rwandans in our work,” he said.