It was the worst of years...

Tuesday December 15 2020

Caribbean international band Kassav after a Kigali performance in February. PHOTO | Andrew I. Kazibwe


This has been a year like no other. thanks largely to the Covid-19 pandemic that sent the country into a lockdown and other restrictive measures. All the same, Rwanda's art scene had some notable moments as highlighted below.

Live events

The year kicked off with the East African Party on January 1, which featured US-based Rwandan Afro-R&B musician The Ben as the guest act.

Then, in the same month, Kigali Jazz Junction hosted Nigerian rising Afro-pop star Joeboy. February ushered in a two-day sold-out performance by Caribbean international band Kassav.

Lockdown and virtual events

The first case of Coronavirus was reported in March and with it came a lockdown that extended for months, freezing all hangout spots and events. As a result, the creatives turned digital, holding virtual events which were streamed to audiences online via websites, television and social media platforms.


The notable ones included the Messages of Rwanda Women Artists; Each for Equal, a joint exhibition by female visual artists, launched on May 18.

by the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda. But Tuff Gang live on stage, featuring renowned rappers Bull Dogg, Fireman, Green P, P-Fla, and Jay Polly was brought to an abrupt stop for the violation of Covid-19 lockdown rules.

July welcomed the Iwacu Muzika festival, that unveiled painters, musicians, and poets, and the Ubumuntu Arts Festival, which took place in July.

Not to be left behind was the 2020 Kwita Izina (Gorilla Naming Ceremony) which took place in September.
Others were Urusaro International Women Film Festival and Hamwe Festival. Church services also adopted the virtual platforms as a means to reach and administer to believers.

Rwf 3b fund launched

As a response to the pandemic, the government secured a Rwf3 billion fund to aid in the recovery of the arts and entertainment industry.

Deaths within the arts

The arts suffered a number of loses. On January 20 Dr James Vuningoma, a renowned arts researcher, scholar and executive secretary to Rwanda Academy of Languages and Culture (RALC) of the Ministry of Youth and Culture passed on after a short illness.

Renowned gospel musician Kizito Mihigo’s death also robbed the industry of talent. Mihigo was in 2015 sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for involvement in political crimes. However, in 2018 Kizito received a presidential pardon but was rearrested a few months later trying to leave for Burundi.

Equally shocking was the death of deejay and entertainer Virgil Karuranga alias Dj Miller on April 5. The 29-year old, who did collaborations with artists Peace Jolis, Knowless, Dream Boys, Nel Ngabo, and Christopher, died of heart complications. His debut album dubbed Shani was launched in his honour.