Healing Through Art

The Yego Art Studio Healing the Pain of Genocide in Rwanda

Bob Koigi

After Rwanda’s genocide, these young artists transformed an abandoned building into an art studio with works aimed at healing the suffering.

More than twenty years since the Rwandan genocide that claimed more than 800,000 lives, displaced millions and brought global attention to a small East African country, a group of young artists has coalesced around a spirit of healing and reconciliation through various forms of art.

Yego Art Studio
Yego Arts Studio.

Through the Yego Arts Studio in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, ten talented young artists have over the years used brush strokes to communicate various messages of healing, a concept that has drawn local and international visitors.

Tony Cyizanye, the brains behind the gallery, hails from neighboring Burundi and got the inspiration from his predominantly artist family. He started the gallery in 2013 with funds from selling his paintings. He would later mobilize local artists and community members to transform an abandoned building into the professional art studio that it is today.

Through the Yego Arts Studio in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, ten talented young artists have over the years used brush strokes to communicate various messages of healing.

Cyizanye’s work has graced popular art events the world over, including at the Columbia University, United Nations day in the Milles Collines Hotel in Kigali and in the 2011 Survival exhibition in Belgium.

He has also worked with street children in Nyamirambo market, one of the Rwanda artists’ meeting places. His ultimate dream has been to attract African visual artists to the gallery to showcase their work to a growing audience that has found the gallery therapeutic.

From paintings of lush vegetation to those depicting one big compound hosting a variety of houses to showcase unity and love, the gallery has sought to position Rwanda, often christened the land of a thousand hills, as cohesive and learning from the mistakes of its past with the overarching message of never again standing out conspicuously in the various forms of art on display.

Yego Art Studio

Claudine Umulisa is one of the premier artists at the Yego Arts Studio. Making traditional jewelry and sewing handiwork are her forte, which she learned from her uncle, a sculptor and artist. With no professional art schools in Rwanda, the majority of artists rely on mentorship from veterans in the industry, key among them the older generation who have perfected the art. Umulisa would like to use her work for both local and international designers.

The gallery has also sought to bust long-held myths and beliefs among Rwandans that art is for those who have failed in schools and life. In a society that measures a child’s success by his grades in school or the career he pursues, the gallery encourages parents to visit and interact with celebrated artists who have seen their works receive international audience and acclaim. The idea is to motivate the parents and their children to cultivate talent and encourage them that a career in art pays.

The gallery also organizes Live Painting, an event that combines, music, barbecue and a live art celebration open to art-lovers in the country and beyond.  ■

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