After touring Karongi, Musanze and Gasabo, I headed to Kayonza District in the Eastern Province. Again, I traveled solo on a made-in-Rwanda adventure motorbike while trying as much as I could to observe measures put in place to slow down the spread of COVID - 19.
The Kigali- Rwamagana ride was seamless. At some point, I deviated from the tarmac and had an exhilarating off-road biking experience. For some insane reasons, I enjoy riding on dirt roads. The highway makes me sleepy.
Later on, rain and strong wind forced me to seek refuge in a roadside Rwamagana hotel. I spent hours in the restaurant waiting for the weather to improve before I resumed riding. It would have been a boring stopover but there is no such a thing as boredom when good Rwandan coffee is at your disposal. Besides, I hadn’t written my last Gasabo story. I spent about half an hour crafting that piece.
While sipping some coffee, one painting hanging on the wall attracted my attention. The said painting was an artistic impression of a rhino in the jungle. I once spoke to an artist at Imigongo Art Center who was painting a rhino. I wondered if the painting I was looking at was the one created in my presence about two years ago. After taking a closer look, I saw its creator’s social media pages and visited them. It was a different artist living in Rwamagana. His pages are adorned with a huge collection of his work.
The painter of the rhino hanging on the wall is active on Instagram. He spots a big uncombed afro with pencils partially submerged in it. His sleeves are always rolled up, ready to make his hands dirty. I ended up reaching out to him. All I can say is, if you want to talk to this fella about art, you better spare a whole day. Just like that, I found my first Rwamagana story. Speaking of Rwamagana, I am considering covering this district when I am done with Kayonza. My itinerary is not set on Moses’ tablet. It doesn’t constitute the 30 commandments. It is subject to ammendments.
The Rwamagana-based artist has interesting stories to share with the world. He is contemplative. Beneath that uncombed afro hides thought-provoking perspectives. Some of the stories he tells through art are deeply philosophical.
When we see a new billboard on our way to work, our brains perform a split-second process of absorbing a cluster of components and filtering the message it’s meant to convey. To figure out what a painting communicates, we need to slow down that process and avoid jumping to snap conclusions.
To be honest, I still struggle to decode meanings of complex artworks. Sometimes, even simple illustrations raise more questions than answers. I remember the day I looked at a painting of women carrying jerrycans of water and wondered, "Is the painter addressing lack of running water in their households? Is he showcasing the spirit of working together? Could it be both? Am I missing a broader context here? " I looked at the combination of color and texture. I observed the juxtaposition of objects. I mused over shadows, shapes and dimensions. I paid attention to little details and gradually started getting into the minds of artists.
I will feature the Rwamagana-based artist during my upcoming tour of his district. Over the next two weeks or so, I will be sharing my awe-inspiring discoveries in Kayonza. Stay tuned.
The author is currently visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Kayonza is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours, Akagera Rhino Lodge, Jambo Beach, Imigongo Art Center, Silent Hill Hotel and Ihema View Campsite