Collin Sekajugo’s solo exhibition, which started on March 28 and ends on April 5 at his Ivuka Studio in Kacyiru features the changing role of fathers in African society.
“This exhibition is inspired by my experience as a black father living in Africa whilst parenting a child living in Europe,” said the 35-year-old painter. “As a child I never had a close relationship with my father, just like most people my age.”
Each of Sekajugo’s art pieces on display at his “Black Father” exhibition depicts a father’s involvement in a child’s day-to-day life and is like a snapshot of a moment of parenting. According to the painter, his pieces are a portrayal of an African man caught up in unusual circumstances.
“This is not African culture he said. “For instance, I don’t remember my father reading a book to me or taking me to school.
“Here in Africa we are used to seeing only women giving children parental care. But for me it’s a culture I have had to adopt because my child lives in Europe,” he said.
The pieces on display delve into the experiences of a first-time father — experiences Sekajugo explores from multiple angles like a photographer trying to capture a boundlessly fascinating subject.
The words “School is the best place,” which feature in the background of this masterpiece, are meant to “urge the child to stay in school,” said the painter.
“The woman is fading out as a popular figure for taking children to school because the trend is slowly changing,” said Sekajugo.
Another fascinating piece is titled “Child Support” and it conveys messages of today’s man offering more than just financial support to his family.
“Caring for one’s children doesn’t necessarily mean offering financial support to your children and their mother but also being there both morally and physically,” he says of his piece.
Then there is “The Ball is Mine,” of which he says: “I have learnt that playing with your child is important. It’s important for parents to take their kids to play and not just let them go on the loose by themselves.”
Mother’s Day depicts father and son in a celebratory mood on their way from shopping for gifts for the mother, while Co-actors “portrays father and son as the “centrepiece of the home.”
“We are like co-actors in the house and that’s the connection that keeps us alive,” he said.
The artist hopes to use this exhibition as a springboard to recapture the attention of Rwandan visual art enthusiasts that he used to enjoy some years ago.
“It’s been a while since I did a solo art exhibition in Kigali,” said Sekajugo, who was born in Uganda and raised in Kenya.
“I have not quit the art scene as most of you have been made to believe. I chose to concentrate on my international presence for a while to seek more knowledge, new inspirations and challenges.
“Once again I am keen on working with various stakeholders in the creative sector to bring back the energy that seems to have lost direction and meaning with all the ongoing replication of art and work spaces that are currently pervading Kigali.”
When he first arrived in Kigali from Kampala 14 years ago, Sekajugo was dismayed by the absence of an art scene in the country. Back then there were a few talented visual artists but there was no art space to bring them together to hone their artistic skills.
To make matters worse, art was not taught in Rwandan schools, implying that many aspiring painters had to study abroad or teach themselves the trade.
During his first years in Rwanda, the budding painter toed with the idea of setting up an art studio but lack of funds held him back until 2007 when his savings became sufficient to open the Ivuka Studio.
Over the years, Ivuka became a training ground for many aspiring Rwandan painters. The founders of some of the most popular art galleries in Kigali — Inema Arts Centre and Uburanga Arts Studio — are former students of Sekajugo who passed through his Kacyiru-based Ivuka Studio.
Sekajugo made himself a name in Rwanda and the East African region with unique paintings that carried messages of social conscience and healing inspired by the grotesque 1994 genocide that decimated the country’s population.
Over the years, the 35-year-old self-taught painter has exhibited his works in different continents of the world, including Asia, Europe and North America.
In 2008, away from visual art and in pursuit of social change, Sekajugo initiated RwaMakondera, a traditional dance troupe that brings together children from disadvantaged backgrounds with the aim of nurturing their natural talents. Besides that, Sekajugo’s initiative also supports these children – who have since performed for various audiences around the world – to get an education.
In his illustrious painting career, Sekajugo also founded Weaver Bird, another community-based organisation that brings together artists from the central Ugandan district of Masaka. The aim of this project is to transform Masaka into a community tourism hub in the east African region, he said.