Exciting times lie ahead for the visual arts in Rwanda.
A series of exhibitions is planned to widen the scope of the national gallery at the Rwesero Arts Museum in Nyanza.
There, a new policy of guest exhibitions by Rwandan and foreign artists has been implemented by Lia Gieling, a Dutch woman who is just one year into her job as arts curator at the museum, part of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.
Previously the accent was on displaying the permanent collection. Now guest artists are to be given a look in.
First up — from May 18 and running through until September — are three artists who will share the museum galleries.
They are the South African photographer Pieter Hugo, Dutch photographer Andrea Stultiens and the Ugandan mixed media artist Collin Sekajugo, who has already earned a regional reputation for the quality of his montages using cut plastic water containers and other objets trouves. Examples can usually be seen at the One-Off Gallery in Rosslyn, Nairobi, among other places.
Hugo’s exhibition is certain to stir up painful memories. Called Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide it deals with the country’s harrowing past.
The Rwanda Genocide Institute describes these powerful and disturbing pictures as offering, “a forensic view of some of the sites of mass execution and graves that stand as lingering memorials to the many thousands of people slaughtered.”
Hugo has donated the project to the museum, a gesture that left Gieling open mouthed with gratitude. “What a wonderful, generous thing to do,” she said, adding that the gift would form the core of what she hoped would be a series of substantial works in the museum collection.
And to be clear about the scale of the donation, Hugo is one of the most highly regarded — and highly priced — photographers on the international scene with the cost of a single print on the open market running into many thousands of dollars.
Aged 36 and born in Cape Town, Hugo focuses mainly on portraiture. He describes himself as “political with a small ‘p’, ” and his latest project (not being shown at the Rwesero) is Permanent Error, a sharp commentary on consumption and consumerism, projected through pictures of the people and landscape at an extensive dumping ground of obsolete technology, in Ghana.
Andrea Stultiens’ show, called The Kaddu Wasswa Archive, is like Hugo’s, packed with regional relevance.
It is a visual biography of one Kaddu Wasswa, now ag