‘Inkera’ hails the past with song and dance

The artist draws young men as strong and proud of their roots.

Isaac Umuhire held a solo exhibition to showcase his paintings. PHOTO | ANDREW KAZIBWE 

IN SUMMARY

  • Dubbed Inkera, a Kinyarwanda word meaning get together, the exhibition is a celebration of the country’s past through music and dance as the focal point.

Isaac Umuhire’s solo exhibition takes the audience on a journey into Rwanda’s ancient dance traditions. It features unique visual art themes and styles that are appealing.
Dubbed Inkera, a Kinyarwanda word meaning get together, the exhibition is a celebration of the country’s past through music and dance as the focal point.

The show opened on September 16, with entertainment provided by traditional dance group Niyo Troupe.

This is Umuhire’s first solo exhibition and it will be held until the end of October at Kigali’s Heaven Restaurant.

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Umuhire says he was inspired by a yearning to find out about his family lineage. Last year, he visited Huye district in the Southern Province to trace his ancestry. However, the search was not fruitful.

For this show, Umuhire used information from his history class to bring the past to life using his brush.

Inkera was a gathering around igishyito (the fireplace), where people would sing and dance to celebrate, while also passing on cultural norms and values to the younger generation.

Inkera was a gathering around igishyito (the fireplace), where people would sing and dance to celebrate, while also passing on cultural norms and values to the younger generation. PHOTO | ANDREW KAZIBWE 

Although such events were common in the past, they have now been relegated to ceremonies like weddings. Umuhire seeks to revive them through his images.

The show features a collection of 10 works. Some paintings are of men dancing, guhamiriza; young women dancing is referred to as urushara.

Ngira Nkugire is a piece that showcases a dance between a man and a woman. Their courtship is captured through dance, and the couple raise their arms to symbolise the country’s hills and cattle horns.

The artist draws young men as strong and proud of their roots. The images also show scenes of an interlude within the dance, where the men pause, with their arms raised in a forward motion and bending down on one knee.

This is referred to as kugwa mu nka, which symbolises pride, strength and honour.

Umuhire paints men wearing long, hairy costumes around their heads to symbolise intare, the lion, a great warrior.

Umuhire paints men wearing long, hairy costumes around their heads to symbolise intare, the lion, a great warrior. PHOTO | ANDREW KAZIBWE 

He terms his style as a fusion, because he creates art using a palette knife and a brush. For his backgrounds, Umuhire uses repetitive square shapes, similar to imigongo, a famous Rwandan ancient art form. His works range between $400 to $2,000.

Umuhire is a member of Kigali’s Niyo arts gallery. Recently, he has been experimenting with urban graffiti and muraling, which are new art forms in the country.

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