Travelling around Kigali City is such a memorable experience. The decorative fountain streams of Kigali city are some of the features that have left indelible memories to many visitors to the country. The making of these artistic pieces is a wonder in itself.
In and around the city of Kigali, one is treated to magnificent sites of the roads that are always kept clean with tiled pavements and the ever green road dividers.
These begin and end at the beautifully designed roundabouts with fountain streams that add an aesthetic taste to the city.
Fountains are streams of water forced up into the air through a small hole, especially for decorative effect. They are normally designed with pieces of art that portray a message to the eyes that gaze at the beauty.
Today, the new complex that houses the headquarters of Rwanda Revenue Authority, Electoral Commission and MINICOM in Kigali city spares no passer-by to look at the seemingly simple but artistically designed fountain that stands at the foreground of the building.
For something that appears so stunningly beautiful, credit must be given to those responsible for this art.
Here in Rwanda, the Babatoto are responsible for the art of fountains. This is a team of artists and designers that specialise in land scaping and gardening, though much emphasis is put on water fountains.
This team of artists comprises of four talented persons: G.B Ssemboga, Edward Mbagamba, Naita Kigozi and David Kigozi.
The chairperson of the group is Ssemboga while Edward Mbagamba deals with the sketches and designs as Naita Kigozi and David Kigozi deal with the field work.
Ssemboga attributes the skills in the art to his family which he says pays attention to the natural phenomena of beauty. His brother Nobert Kagwa is an artist and a lecturer at Kyambogo University in Uganda and his daughter Nakkazi Harriet is a practicing art, plus others in the family who do art just for the love of it and beauty.
“Basically I am an artist and my background is all about art” he says. “Art is a natural talent in the family and from childhood, I was always interested in fine art.”
At Secondary school, he began doing art pieces in the ESSO art competitions in Uganda.
While at Makerere University pursuing a degree in Art in 1965, he painted a picture of Nankansa (Ganda traditional drums).
The art piece was chosen and given to the Queen of England when she visited Uganda. It now hangs at Birmingham Palace in the United Kingdom.
Ssemboga has always loved art and this can be easily seen when you visit his home that is designed with artistic features and the flower gardens and plants that adorn his compound.
“Art is reflected in almost everything people do though one may not notice that.
The clothes we wear, the houses we build, the way we arrange or set our sitting rooms shows that there is a touch of art that is demonstrated” Ssemboga says.
The process of making a fountain
Ssemboga says that with all the thousands of styles for water fountains in the world, it’s hard to sort through all the varieties, sieve through the options and permutations, to find the perfect fountain.
They chose the design for the fountain at RRA from the bureau’s concept that has grace and beauty that is reminiscent of the classic image of the family.
Symbols on RRA’s fountain
• The concept is all about a man and a woman building a stable good home from which nations are built. The man and woman feed the home that in turn feeds the nation with future leaders.
• The wheat heads signify the food security for the home and country as a whole.
• The stone foundation signifies the strong base of a home and inside the pool is the map of Rwanda where all this is being done.
All art pieces are done with a purpose and are used for different reasons.
Though many people will not realize, this fountain has a beautiful concept.
When they conceived the idea, they got the total concept by sketching the artist’s impression and this is called sketch designing.
After the sketches, they did the measurements of how their impression would appear in size, length and height before starting the real art work.
Ssemboga describes the execution of the real fountain.
You get the sketch out model and mould the actual size using clay which you wrap with Paris plaster.
Two weeks later it is opened and removal of the remaining clay with the plaster of Paris is done.
Like the RRA fountain, it is housed in the shape of their original design where they poured fibre glass which is weather proof.
After this, the final touches on the fountain are done.
Some fountains are made from moulded fibre glass and some from cast alabastrite.
In all formss, they are very durable, and have a beautiful natural finish that makes the fountains look like real stone, even when they are light weight.
The beautiful waterfall fountain sounds also bring soothing joy to you and your indoor or outdoor environment for many years.
Though they have done other fountains in different sizes and many others are underway, the RRA fountain is a mixture of the Classic and Contemporary styles. It is really an incredible, magnificent waterfalls fountain with spectacular water sounds.
Another beautiful work of art is the fountain at the Kigali Business Centre (KBC) roundabout that gives beauty to the place with its fabulous flower gardens surrounding it.
On a hot shinny day, the sound of water dripping from this fountain reminds one of jungles and water falls.
The mother and the child stand on top of the fountain and are intent on hearing the sound of the water dripping below while admiring the beauty all around them.
The five lion heads through which the water streams fall to the lower level of the fountain also remind one of the jungles with animals and waterfall sounds.
When water reaches this part of the fountain, it fills the pool that over flows to the last basin.
Water circulates up to the top tier, tumbles over into the pool of water in the middle tier, and then flows into the pool in the large basin.
This flowing, cascading water creates beautiful waterfall sounds that are so relaxing.
Included is a quiet adjustable-flow water pump that plugs into an electrical outlet.
Kigali also has another newly finished fountain at the Kwarubangura round about.
The water from this fountain shoots up from different pipes at different levels and makes a magnificent water pattern as it tumbles down to the lowest water basin.
This fountain is also surrounded by a garden of beautiful flowers that are attended to daily by a group of gardeners. There is no doubt that in a short while it’s going to be a magnificent scene for travellers who are always enthusiastic at the turn on of the waters.
Selecting a water fountain
Ssemboga says that there are three factors to consider while choosing or selecting a water fountain and these are:
placement, intent and cost.
Every one has a reason for wanting a water fountain and though many would want to posses one in and around their homes, they are not always backed by the ability.
So the cost is always a determinant.
“This can be an incredibly prohibitive factor because with unlimited resources there is no doubt that anyone can get the perfect water fountain, either by the whim of fate or by custom ordering from an artisan who specialized in fountains” he says.
People will be more happy with a fountain within their budgets than one studded with diamonds that will make them break ‘banks’.
“The cost of Fountains depends on the size and the kind. So knowing what you want in a water fountain and how much you are willing to spend on it is crucial and will always determine the price” Ssemboga says.
Next consideration is your intention. Why are you buying a water fountain? Most people purchase water fountains to add an element of natural motion to their gardens, greenhouses or patios. Many people find flowing water relaxing.
“Some people enjoy the effect moisture has on air. Others like to hear the sound made by water while dripping down the fountain” says Alex who looked relaxed with his girl friend at the fountain gardens near the KBC.
The final consideration when purchasing a fountain is placement. Where are you putting this fountain? If it’s inside, is it a sturdy shape that won’t easily be knocked down by pets or children?
If outside, does the water fountain need power or plumbing? If so, can one easily access the required materials?
Ssemboga says the perfect fountain is got after considering where you want it to be placed.
People always have these questions to ask: Is your patio made of red brick?
Will a grey or brown fountain look better on that surface? Most fountains are designed to suit most gardens and patio environments.
Apart from doing art pieces, Ssemboga loves restaurants and owns one at KBC.
“Though I am not a chef by profession, I do love restaurants and I was inspired by my love for art.
The way I utilize space and the uniqueness of the services and the taste of the food at my restaurant, has an artistic touch to it” he says.
Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in.
This reality has been fulfilled by the men behind the decorative fountain streams of Kigali city in Rwanda.