A gallery that cultivates friendship
Saturday 20th August – Kigali – RWANDA
Sam and Tutu decided to open the Inshuti gallery in Kigali during the COVID pandemic – a very brave choice indeed.
I met Tutu and Sam through Greg and the Red Rocks Initiative and I was happy to finally visit the gallery and meet the artists in person.
On Saturday, I took a red Yego Moto and went to the Kacyiru area to meet them.
Tutu was travelling abroad with his family so, unfortunately, I only had the chance to meet Sam.
From the gate, I spotted his silhouette and started waving animatedly.
Muraho ? Yego
Amakuru ? Ni meza
How are you? I’m fine]
An open smile and a big, warm hug followed, celebrating another of those special encounters after only being in virtual contact before.
The art gallery is located in the ground floor rooms of a huge house on KG 549 Street and extends to two levels. A big garden creates a green circle all around the orange building, and it is here where they hold cinema nights and different kinds of events and artistic gatherings.
Installations are spread around the building, between homemade square sofas built from raw wood. It’s a plain and minimalistic style that inspires freedom of expression and exchanges.
Several empty easels rest in a line on a long metal table in one corner of the garden, as if they were unwinding from the last painting class and getting ready to hold the next blank canvas.
Colours emerge from the green of the bushes standing between the trees of the outdoor spaces, but they actually come from the canvases of the thirteen resident artists.
In fact, Sam told me that not having the external walls of the house, or the perimeter of the garden, painted in bright colours – as can be seen in most Kigali art galleries – was a conscious decision for him.
He believes that if your eyes met so many colours before entering the actual gallery, they would already be visually polluted, and wouldn’t appreciate enough the artworks that they will then admire inside.
An interesting point, I must admit.
Inshuti means ‘friendship’ in Kinyarwanda (one of the Rwandese languages) and this is what this space is built on.
I met a child at the back of the garden, busy playing with paint colours. He was filling his time while his mother completed her cleaning duties inside the house. However, Sam told me that it is normal to see children hanging around here. This is an open space and children often just come here to paint and then go. They can use this space freely, as they wish.
Sam doesn’t like it to attract the attention of tourists, because this is a kind of artistic home for them, and they shouldn’t be turned into an attraction. This is the reason why you won’t see children perform here.
This is the spirit of Inshuti.
The space where the gallery is located was already working as an international hostel receiving people from all over the world, but in the last two years their friendship has extended to others.
The links with the Red Rocks Initiative in Musanze, for example, strengthen – apart from organising free painting sessions for children and adults at the cultural centre in the mountain district, Sam has created a room to celebrate this connection in his own house.
The little white room on the lower ground level is filled with art, and it works both as a gallery and as an archive for past creations.
As the co-founder and director, Sam strongly believes that art is healing, and we should offer this opportunity to others. Therefore, he has decided to put the art at the disposal of his local community, and among other things, plans to offer free training classes to people with disabilities.
Next time you are in Kigali, you are most welcome to visit and make new friends at the Inshuti gallery.