Rusagara breathes life into ailing sculptural art

Friday January 29 2021

One of Rusagara's Art installations made out of Tires. PHOTO | COURTESY


The visual art scene, which is majorly led by painters, sculptural artists are rare in the public eye.

Ben Rusagara, 31, is gradually working on concepts to keep the scene alive.

Rusagara’s quiet home located in Remera, Kigali currently shares his workspace. Chisels and wood husks are what welcome anyone who would visit the artist, a clearer indication of his ongoing focus and hand into wood sculpturing.

With immense and gentle care, he handles the now modified wood sculpture and the chisel as he works on fine edges and finishing.

As many have fronted majorly paintings, Rusagara hasn’t been in the shadows for he has in recent years been participating in exhibitions. But his paintings aren’t ordinary; for he is inspired and driven by his core passion of sculptural art. Though he is mostly witnessed through past joint exhibitions where he showcased paintings, this he believes how it holds an influence too.

“I have at most been involved in sculptural art, but since most exhibitions and curators have mostly been calling out for only painters, I do try to fit in too,” he explains.


His practice as an artist dates back to 2014 at Inema Art Center, where he majorly practiced sculptural art and installations using recycled materials like tires, wires and plastics. In 2015, he further participated in more Art projects like the Art residence on Public Art and Sculpture at Uganda Art Trust 32 East in Kampala, Uganda, shortly before joining Ivuka Art Centre in 2016.

From his experience with fellow artists inspired him to the creation of more conceptual art that would pay tribute to Rwandan culture, the dark 1994 Genocide history and the story of healing.

Joint exhibitions that followed included at Inema Art Gallery in Kacyiru, and recently at Maison Beaulier in Kigali last year, where he has mostly exhibited mixed media paintings.

Rusagara’s sculptural art skill has since then influenced his painting and mixed media artworks. Rusagara is cautious about making Art relatable and marketable.

“From workshops and residency programs I’ve attended, I picked interest in borrowing narratives from ancient times’ stories, imagination, mediums which I find useful in the creation of selling art,” he explains.

With this, Rusagara further adopted the creation of layered paintings; where he incorporates the use of unique elongated figurative human images, recycled clothes, soil to create painting background and signs in his paintings.“My sculptures don’t differ from my paintings, so I’ve always stuck to a unique style,” he states.

Although sculptural art isn’t a foreign Art form, yet artists haven’t gone for it, Rusagara believes how by most it is seen as a hectic craft that requires a lot of time and patience. “Unlike a usual panting, a sculpture quires real-time for craft and handling,” he adds.

Since 2018, he is also working on developing more Artworks from car tires and wood, while he hopes through an exhibition to take on this craft to Lagos in Nigeria when the lockdown is lifted.

While most Artists majorly wail about the pandemic, Rusagara sees otherwise, “It is evident how this lockdown is rather most challenging to aspiring Artists working their way into the market,” he explains.

With a shortage of raw materials like paints and other Art accessories which were imported, Rusagara urges that part of the creative process he takes pride in is the idea of making use of what may be at one’s disposal, but this requires real-time and patience.

Rusagara hold plans of staging his first solo Sculptural Art exhibition next year, where he will showcase a variety of Artworks he has been working on in recent years.