Of women, love and beauty

Sunday October 20 2019


Art lovers at the launch of The Modern Exodus, an exhibition by Willy Karekezi 

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An oft shared saying has it that mothers are forever. In fact, here is a song by one of the popular musiciawns of east Africa of the 1990s that claims that mothers are the first gods of our lives.

These two thoughts best describe Willy Karekezi’s fascination with the image of a woman as captured in his latest exhibition at the Indiba Art Space, a newly established art hub in Kimihurura, Kigali.

Karekezi, 26, lost his mother at a tender age but that loss has since influenced his work, where he explores women’s love and inner beauty.

In the latest show, running from October 13-20, Karekezi is presenting over 25 paintings. In these pieces of art, Karekezi combines form and content, leaving us nodding with admiration at the beauty before us. It is indeed the “Modern exodus,” as the show is called.

At his last major showcase entitled “Empty World” in 2016, Karekezi worked with distinguished female artist Poupoute Tabaro, and together they merged their skill on canvas. Whether it is love, tradition, politics, or nature, Karekezi is poetic with his brushworks.

“I invite the audience to discover what is beyond what they see,” he states. In his paintings, Karekezi seeks to bring nature closer to man – not just depicting humans, with animals, trees and vegetation in the background.


For example, in Unification, a woman holds a toddler. The human body has the head of a gorilla, yet carries a basket of bananas too.

This speaks a lot about how economies have become dependent onto tourism, where animals like the  gorilla and activities like gorilla trekking are seen as a source of revenue.

Child and woman In Unconditional Love, a woman has a child in her arms. A cloth is wrapped around the child’s face. There is a halo around the woman’s head. The same woman is in a robe ornamented with flowers.

There is an untitled painting of a half-dressed woman with tattoos. Karekezi shows us how creation can be intertwined, hence emerging with familiar, but odd beauty. He comes up with his own creature, a combination of a woman, but with body parts of tree branches and birds, while flowers make up the hair.

Also to be found in his finishings is the Imigongo, a traditional design style, which the artist uses to ornament some of the women’s portraits.

Karekezi has previously been involved in the American Refugee Committee (ARC) project, where he worked with children across refugee camps.

He has also worked on joint projects like the Land School of Economy, with Ugandan artists.