Inshuti (Kinyarwanda) -> friend (English).
The many faced colour rich entrance to this art centre beckons for attention. I spot it one day while squeezed onto the window of a taxi heading back to Byangabo, and I tell myself the next day my feet shall find themselves there.
And true they do, on a fine Monday morning. Dew is still settled onto the lush lawn, a testament to the mild sun of Musanze. The place screams of newness; the paint is rich, the gravel recently crushed, the sculptures’ wireframes show no sign of weather erosion, everything generally seems to be in place.
My friend Wangeci and I are greeted by a wide-open door along with stares from faces near the compound’s hedge. One of those faces approaches us in an effort to bar our entry. A young man musters some English words that say to some effect that we should wait for the manager to arrive. He shares her number and we call her. She says she’s walking toward the centre from the University of Kigali campus down the road.
She must be a lecturer; I think to myself.
Well, Aliyah is not a lecturer. She’s actually a final year Commerce student at that university. Her brother-in-law owns the place. She’s an upcoming artist, courtesy of her brother’s exposure to art. She shows us her first-ever artwork; a watercolour, acrylic painting of a river with differing vegetation on either of its banks. I ask her why she chose to do commerce, in light of my amazement at the detail in her painting. Aliyah is honest; almost unknowingly brutal.
“Because that’s what people do,” she says, “right now I just want to finish my degree and do art.”
As she walks us round the space showing us Kalungi’s (her brother-in-law) work, I remark that the artist is fond of the female form.
“Yes, he likes beautiful girls. He married my sister,” Aaliyah adds.
Wangeci and I can’t help but chuckle at this. It’s a happy thing and feeling to hear a Rwandan open to saying things.
All the sculptures outside of the house are courtesy of Kalungi. There’s a lot of experimentation with mixed media at this gallery. Folded canvases, thick blobs of semi-abstract portraits, beadwork.
There is also an interplay of culture and heritage with works from Zulu; a Rwandan based down the road at Red Rocks works from the Ugandan owner Karonje, Kenyan art and a stray Tanzanian painting.
Inshuti is a teenage art space. You can feel its walls aching to flex and run. It’s vibrant, fresh, new. With such young management, it has the energy to spread its wings. It’s so close to the road but yet inside the confines of the house, one can hardly hear the traffic flowing outside.
Wangeci and I grab some souvenirs from their gift shop on our way out.
“Did you ever listen to Aaliyah back in the day?” I ask Aliyah.
“I did. I didn’t like so much…”
Wangeci and I chuckle again. I think we’ve made a new friend.