For a long time, the art sector in Rwanda was largely a foreigner’s indulgence. The foreigners would be in the country on a tour and treat themselves to the works of art on offer.
The tide has gradually turned. It is in homage to this change that Concepts Arts Studio reopened recently in Biryogo, Nyamirambo, breathing fresh life into the recovering art scene.
Concepts had closed its doors in 2019 it was then located in Kacyiru when founder Timothy Wandulu, 30, took a break to attend to art tours and workshops alongside some commissioned gigs.
The space is an art lover’s delight. It is a two-roomed block comprising a moderate exhibition area, which holds several captivating framed and non-framed semi-abstract paintings.
In the far corner of the room is a brightly-coloured clothed seat, which was hand-made by Wandulu. Next to it is another striking painting of the Inyambo, Rwanda’s ancient beloved cow breed.
The second room is a workspace, where things get done — from sketching, painting, framing, to complex skills like sewing. Though it is Wandulu’s core working space, he is open to working with fellow artists.
While it is open throughout the week, it is only on Fridays that the public is allowed in for exhibitions.
Now, paintings in a typical gallery and art studio have price tags attached but not when it comes to Wandulu’s work.
For him, it is about letting the people first enjoy and digest the works before prices.
He dabbles in Nyamirambo street sketchings. These capture the daily busy life and setting of the people. Wandulu captures this, making art relatable, and memorable to any Rwandan.
“It is an appreciation, and preservation of the memories of the environment I work in,” he explains.
It is because of this that Wandulu shifted to Nyamirambo, where he finds honesty in how people live, work and view daily life.
“The energy in this place... everyone here lives with that attitude, which I, too, channel into my inspiration,” he says. He plans to introduce affordable pieces going for as low as Rwf2,000, for clientele in the spirit of first marketing his art to Rwandans.
“Rwandans do appreciate artworks despite the cost,” he says.
Wandulu is in participatory and experimental advocacy art, where he crafts pieces for community awareness on health and the environment.
He creates semi-abstract mixed-media paintings using recycled waste materials like airtime cards, old magazine and newspaper pieces.
He also sets up larger art installations by the use of old umbrellas, paper, cutlery, clothes, wires, old plastic and metallic cans he collects from streets, and rubbish cans.