Creative life: The art spaces that made Kigali

Saturday October 30 2021

Artists during one of the past workshops at Inganzo Art Centre in Masaka. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE


With the African visual art scene exploding in the past few decades, so too has Rwanda’s capital Kigali, through evolution, in recent years seen a wave of innovation especially in its art spaces.

As the solid ''artpreneurship'' culture expands and spreads through the art community with the birth of some major spaces being set up, others have vanished too.

The early 2000s are not only credited for breathing life into national music, dance and theatre but into the visual artistry, which has over the past few years taken root. Creative youth have gradually teamed up and set up art galleries, creative centres or studios in Kigali, raising the country's appetite for recreation and leisure. Here are a few of those art spaces pulling crowds.

Ivuka Art Centre

Believed to have been the first of the new public art galleries set up in 2007, by a group led by Collin Sekajugo. It is credited for the nurturing and growth of young aspiring creatives. The space is also home to and hosts Amakondera, a children’s traditional dance troupe, who tour and perform locally and internationally.

But even after many creatives were nurtured here, the wave of life hasn’t favoured its strength, and it faced management challenges until its closure in 2020 when the premises in Kacyiru was partly turned into a residential space, while the remaining space was taken over, and is currently occupied by NP Art Space, a new visual art hub too. With yet an official statement from its founders, sources say that it is scouting for a new venue to relocate to.


Inema Art Centre

Located in Kacyiru, it is one of the first art spaces to break even. Founded in 2012 by brothers Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza. They are believed to have risen through Ivuka Art Centre. The space is known for its contemporary art bridging Rwanda, Burundi, and Ugandan artists, alongside tailoring craft by the Nziza Women’s Workshop. It is also known for its social art-themed Thursday evenings, where art meets contemporary music by deejays, live Open Mics and fashion events.

Uburanga Art Centre

Founded by young artists led by John Bosco Bakunzi, a protege of the Ivuka Art Gallery, the Kimihurura-based space was known for its openness to aspiring, established artists and art lovers, usual art exhibitions culture, and innovative side events like live painting sessions, traditional dance and fire side storytelling evenings. Reasons for its closure in 2014 remain unknown, but sources blame it upon poor management following the departure of its founder to the US, years before.

Niyo Art Gallery

Founded in 2013, by Pacifique Niyonsenga, the space located in Kacyiru brings together several visual artists who lighten it up through paintings, art installations, and sculptures. Beyond the art, it also runs drumming sessions, music and traditional dance by the Niyo Kids foundation.

And holds tailoring sessions for young women too as part of a project to impart life skills.

Rwanda Art Museum

Located in Kanombe, the space is hosted in the former presidential statehouse and came to life in 2018 after the relocation of the National Art Gallery from Rwesero, Nyanza in the Southern province.

Art Museum

Inside the Rwanda Art Museum in Kanombe. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE

It came into being in 2006. Now modified, it not only hosts permanent works by African art pioneers, but also contemporary craft from paintings, stone and wood sculptures to installations by youth.

Inganzo Art Centre

Established in 2002, initially as a gallery by legendary visual artist and sculptor Epa Binamungu, the facility formerly located at the Kigali Business Centre (KBC) in Kacyiru, relocated to a more spacious facility in Masaka, still in Kigali.

It has since then thrived on hosting art sessions for schools, alongside residencies, workshops, and exhibitions for both Rwandan and foreign visual artists.

Tongo Art Gallery

Established in 2014 by Congolese-Rwandan-based painter Joe Mukuna, it was located in Kacyiru, a few meters from the American embassy.

The tidy, cozy and contemporary artspace was known for its fusion of figurative paintings, alongside jewellery by American Designer Sarah Manion and its painting classes. It closed shop in 2016.

Kanyaburanga Art Centre

Initiated by Djamal Ntagara, formerly from Uburanga Art Centre, the space which was located in Kicukiro, opened its doors in 2018.

Known for its vast Art installation ambiance, and chilled location, it harnessed new artists and exhibitions until late 2019 when it closed because it could not afford to pay the rent.

But according to the founder, the space has just taken a break and it will open again.

Yego Arts Centre

Founded in 2010, by Tonny Ikizanye, the space was first situated behind Nyarutarama behind Mr Chips until 2014 when he left for the US and left it under the care of Olivier Kwitonda.

The space featured works by various painters from Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, and Uganda.

It also hosted a cultural exhibition space for talented female visual artists like Crista Uwase, Hortance Kamikazi.

The space shifted to Kimihurura, but not for long, because it later moved to Gikondo where it survived until 2018.

Abiene Arts

It opened its doors in 2017 in Kacyiru, closer to the SOS School. Initiated by visual Artist Fabianne Akimana, who formerly worked with Ivuka, Inema, and Niyo Art spaces, the unique spot, which offered unique painting styles, inspired by African culture, sadly closed its doors in 2019.


An exhibition at the Inema Art Centre in Kacyiru. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE

Kigali Arts Centre

The Kicukiro-based space was founded by artists Pacific Kiki and Fabrice Girihirwe in late 2018.

It rose with a throbbing spirit of combining visual art and poetry. It however closed premises last year due to the pandemic lockdowns according to sources. It hasn’t yet officially reopened.

Indiba Art Space

The Kimihurura-based space is lately a hang out of unique young artists.

It was founded in 2018 by Willy Karekezi, a former member of Uburanga Arts Centre and borrows a lot in culture from his mentors, which makes it stand out in its vibrancy.

Concept Art Studio

Initiated by Timothy Wandulu, formerly of Inema Art Centre, this space is known for mind-blowing craft and various mediums like recycled materials.

Initiated over four years ago, it was first based in Kacyiru before closing in 2019. It recently reopened doors in October 2021 in Nyamirambo, where it operates to date.

Other spaces include Imagine Arts studio founded by Strong Karakire, in Nyamirambo, which still exists, but with low activity. Motherland Arts, a Nyarutarama-based space is known for its body art culture.

The Talk Through Art (TTA) in Gikondo offers therapeutic art sessions to art lovers.

Huza Arts initially located in Kicukiro was a great space that closed after moving to Gikondo.

Little has been heard from it from it since then