It is revival time for Rwanda’s creative sector driven by an upsurge in social events. Jerome Migisha, a cultural entrepreneur and arts practitioner who for close to 18 years has ventured into contemporary dance, acting, theatre and lately standup comedy, says he has witnessed fi rst hand the struggle by artistes for space to showcase. “Spaces for performance and art centres barely existed,” says Migisha.
For example, when stand-up comedy group Comedy Knights was founded in 2011 they found a home at the Ishyo Art Centre in Kacyiru. But in 2014, the space at Ishyo Arts Centre ’s was closed, leaving them and others stranded.
Through partnerships, the Comedy Nights were welcomed by the Kigali Serena Hotel.
“By then most artistic shows would either be held at Serena or at the Amahoro Stadium, but at a high price securing a schedule,” Migisha explains.
Also hosting events was the Kigali Goethe Institut and the French Cultural Centre, though the issue of space persisted.
Migisha’s pain was shared by several other local performers like poets, film makers, musicians, visual artists and dancers.
“The few hotels that existed preferred hosting a live band performance to any other show,” he remarks.
The last two to three years have seen more spaces embrace the arts. BK Arena, which majorly was established as a basketball hub, is lately hosting local musical performances, which have attracted big crowds.
The Canal Olympia at Rebero, a suburb in Kigali, also has hosted several outdoor musical concerts by both local and international acts. Others like the Ntare Arena in Kabuga have followed suit. L’Espace in Kacyiru, Kigali, is another prominent venue that has for close to two years gained a name for staging authentic performances.
The School of Architecture and Built Environment (SABE) in Kiyovu opened up its exhibition space for local visual artists.
Club Mamba in Kimihurura has embraced performances by rising acts in music, comedy, art, and photography. With its youthful clientele, Quezi Bar and Bistro in Remera is another venue that has embraced the arts, with cultural-themed nights that incorporate music, live painting and live discussions.
Lavana Restaurant in Kimihurura has cemented a name as the home of Spoken Word Rwanda, a live poetry event that takes place every last Thursday of the month.
Others like Ubumwe Grand Hotel, Grand Legacy Hotel, Lemigo Hotel, Hotel Des Mille Colline, M-Hotel and Radisson Blu Hotel are notable for live music performances.
“Hotels have realised there is value in working with artistes since they command audiences,” says Martin Kasirye alias MC Tino, an events host and musician.
The car-free zones in Nyamirambo and Remera have alaso social centres typical for weekly music performances.