As with most people who lost their livelihood in the wake of the pandemic and turned to other forms of work to earn their keep, some creatives explored new approaches to their craft.
Olivier Kwitonda is one of those who have been making new art in his home studio located in Kagugu, a sector in Gasabo district of Kigali, which is far from the place he lived before Covid-19 hit Rwanda.
The artist started out in 2010 and by 2018 he had set up a home studio in Kacyiru, a suburb of Kigali. The ban on events and commercial travel last year prompted Kwitonda to find a workspace away from the city.
His art is camouflage painting using acrylics. He paints images of wild animals cleverly camouflaged just like they would appear in the wild with images taking on tones of thick green, brown to grey wild lashes of the wilderness, where animals blend in. The choice of animals are inspired by an interest in nature and conservation.
“The tourism industry, which is a major revenue source for Rwanda, was affected by the pandemic and lockdown measures, and directly impacted on artists, who benefit from tourists,” said Kwitonda.
His semi-abstract art borrows from impressionism and realism, while the themes speak of natural conservation.
Kwitonda’s style evolved, from painting with acrylic paints on plain canvas, diversifying into working with various mediums and materials like old clothes, papers and metal.
He says the pandemic has pushed him into thinking of diverse ways of surviving beyond the brush and physical paintings. He transferred his paintings to print, particularly wearable art, into tee-shirts. He uses social media as a platform to sell his products through commissioned work. “I find it more expressive,” he explains.
Kwitonda also realises that due to the pandemic’s torpedo effect on the market, pricing his artwork has become trickier, having to contend with a lack of foreign buyers. This forced him to consider reducing the sizes of his paintings to attract local art lovers who consider huge canvas paintings unaffordable.