The Best Art Galleries in Kigali
Kigali, Rwanda is a city of art | © Jennifer Pillinger / Alamy Stock Photo
Explore Kigali through its thriving creative scene with this curated Culture Trip guide to the city’s most exciting locations in which to discover art – from galleries and cultural centres to the streets.
Kigali, the capita city of Rwanda, has fast become a hub for the creative arts. © Dereje Belachew / Alamy Stock Photo
Rwanda’s creative scene is booming, and it’s been instrumental in bringing communities together and helping the country recover from its harrowing past. One of the defining features of Kigali’s exciting art scene is its diversity. Traditional crafts, such as imigongo (geometric art), wood carving and weaving; world-class painting, sculpture and photography; and performance art, such as traditional drumming and dance, are all part of the scene. Many galleries in the city also have strong social missions, with programmes dedicated to supporting children living in poverty and passing on skills to the next generation of artists. A good place to start is the creative neighbourhood of Kacyiru, where many of the galleries listed below are located.
Many galleries in Kigali have strong social missions, supporting local causes and charities and aiding in the development of artists’ skills. © Kalahari Stuart / Alamy Stock Photo
Inema Arts Center, Kigali
Founded by brothers Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziz, Inema Art Center in Kacyiru is the beating heart of the city’s art scene. It’s managed by a collective of ten local artists and exhibits work by some of the best artists in East Africa. “Inema Art Center started the contemporary art movement in Rwanda,” says Nkuranga. “Today, it attracts art collectors from all over the world who travel specifically to buy art.” The center is also home to the Nziza Workshop, which produces and sells work by local craftswomen, and Art with a Mission, a programme helping Rwandan orphans discover their artistic talents. Get involved with regular events, such as weekly live music evenings on Thursdays, yoga on Wednesdays and art classes by request – and keep an eye out for the paint-splattered VW Beetles in the lush garden.
Azizi Life Studio
For visitors wanting to learn more about traditional Rwandan crafts, visit Azizi Life Studio. Discover everything from woven baskets and jewellery to pottery, wood carving and imigongo (a traditional form of art made using cow dung mixed with ash). The small gallery has partnered with more than 30 local cooperatives and almost everything on display can be purchased. It’s more than a gallery and shop, though. “We also offer artisan-led classes where people can make their own baskets, jewellery or imigongo,” says Chantal, the studio’s manager. “We share the story behind every craft project with our guests, so they can fully enjoy the Rwandan craft experience.”
Kigali Centre for Photography
The only gallery dedicated to photography in Kigali, the Kigali Centre for Photography in Kacyiru is the place to visit to discover a unique perspective on the country. The space hosts frequently changing exhibitions that celebrate the work of established and emerging local photographers, as well as residencies for visiting international talent. It also operates a Learning for Change programme that teaches young Rwandans from communities around the country the photography skills to document their own experiences. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, and tours can be arranged in advance by calling or emailing the venue.
NIYO Arts Gallery
The colourful NIYO Arts Gallery and Cultural Centre
is a gallery with a social mission founded by Rwandan orphan Pacifique Niyonsenga and located near the Kigali Public Library and the American Embassy in Kacyiru. The vibrant artist-run space showcases work by its artists-in-residence as well as pieces by local children. All sales help the centre support 125 children living in poverty by providing them with an education as well as teaching them valuable skills such as art, drumming and dancing. See the artists at work in the studio next to the gallery.
Ivuka Arts Kigali
was founded in 2007 by multidisciplinary artist Collin Sekajugo
, who had a vision of using art to change lives. The gallery quickly became a hub for educating and training young artists. The artists who run the gallery today have exhibited work around the world, including in America, the UK and Japan. “I think that a society without art would be like a body without a soul,” says Sekajugo. “Over the last ten years I have lived to see art become an integral part of community development in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.” Inside, you’ll find an exciting mix of work – with everything from sculptures crafted from tyres and glass bottles to contemporary timber carvings, vibrant paintings and mixed media work. There’s also a studio space for aspiring artists and a children’s traditional dance troupe called Rwanmakondera.
Rwanda Art Museum
Museum, Art Gallery
Located four kilometres (2.5 miles) from Kigali International Airport, the Rwanda Art Museum exhibits contemporary artwork by both local and international artists. “The aim of the museum is to provide visitors insight into the originality of Rwandan creativity and arts, both modern and traditional,” says manager Vivaldi Ngenzi. “The museum is open to all artistic practices – music, theatre, poetry, traditional and contemporary dance, and visual arts.” Aside from the permanent exhibition – which is themed “Art for Peace” – the museum hosts a number of temporary exhibitions as well as a space for local artists to display work for sale. There’s also an Art Kids’ Studio where budding artists can put their skills to work.
The streets of Kigali
Kigali’s art scene isn’t confined to gallery walls. Talented local and international artists have transformed the city itself into a showcase for colourful, socially aware – and very Instagrammable – street art. From May 2020, Go Further will be offering a city mural
walking tour in partnership with social enterprise Kurema Kureba Kwiga
, which translates as “to create, to see, to learn”. “The coolest mural in town is a huge okapi mural by Belgian street artist ROA
,” says Xavi Curtis, founder of Go Further. “We finish the tour with Kigali’s best sambusas followed by sundowners at the Ikawa Café, on the rooftop of one of Kigali’s most creative buildings in the Kacyiru neighbourhood.”
These recommendations were updated on February 28, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.