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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
This is an updated version of a story created by Maria Menegaki