Sculpting: In search of a face

Monday August 10 2020


Ngabo at what he does best. Photos ~ Andrew I. Kazibwe  

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Although making scuptures is not an odd craft, artists are difficult to find. However, in recent years, it has been overshadowed by painters. Emmanuel Ngabo, 23 who is commonly known as Ngabo wa Ganza has embraced sculptural art with a unique approach.

On a Friday mid-morning, at Ngabo’s cozy compound, which serves as his workshop, he is busy doing what he does best, leaving neighbours and a few passers-by wondering what he is practicing.

Born in Gisenyi, Rubavu district, Ngabo’s talent in visual art isn’t one he fully practised till 2016, after APE Rugunga Secondary School.

Exploring several media, Ngabo recalls how he barely knew that art could be explored as a profession. It wasn’t until he met Crista Uwase, an artist, who inspired and mentored him into real this artistry. “Through her, I learnt how to work around my own unique style,” Ngabo states.

With sculptural art having gradually disappeared from the mainstream, where even the few once known artists opted to shift to painting, Ngabo ventured into the art. Ngabo’s initial fascination with embossed sculptures drew him towards the creation of sculptures.

With the art form not embraced by numbers, Ngabo has since embarked onto a gradually progressive self-taught career. Using materials like mashed papers, construction plaster, wood glue, aluminum wire mesh, Ngabo is able to emerge with a sculpture.


But this isn’t once that comes easily, as it requires some measure of real accuracy, accuracy, and real patience, as unlike most art forms, a sculpture my take several weeks to months of making.

Besides his fantasy for this unique craft, Ngabo is concerned about how a few of the public sculptures which have been commissioned and established; not necessarily vividly reflect Rwanda’s ancient identity, “Some don’t apply to the Rwandan ancient lifestyles,” he explains.

In a bid to stand out, Ngabo’s has rather acted by researching through books and the internet, and further creating sculptures, that he believes well resonates with the society he is surrounded with.

Ngabo has indeed awaked the once read or fantasised ancient lives. One of his untitled pieces is ahead of an ancient elderly man, who wears the Amasunzu, a renowned ancient Rwandan hairstyle.

Though the piece is a working progress, it speaks volumes of the lifeform this picting a collection of cultures, in civilization where we witness the Egyptian and Rwandan.

Though he initially knew of natural clay as the only material to be used, Ngabo has innovated other material for his work. With him using wires, mashed papers, and wood glue, he emerges with quite lighter, and easily handled sculptures, unlike the clay, which is heavy.

As a final touch to his works, the artist applies paint onto his sculpture, and its background too, depending upon the theme.

Ngabo has before been commissioned and paid for a sculpture, something he still cherishes. With his price ranging from as low as Rwf30,000 to Rwf60,000 and above, this depends on the size of the sculpture.

In line with the quality and reputation of his work, Ngabo is cautious about taking his time while working on a sculpture, as it requires real-time to dry.