The country’s sole museum of contemporary art, the Rwanda Art Museum opened to the public on Friday, and the symbolism of the chosen date was not lost on guests.
The launch coincided with global celebrations to mark International Museum Day, marked every May 18th.
There could not have been a better day on which to launch the Rwanda Art Museum, located in the historic building that was once home to two former Rwandan presidents; Juvenal Habyarimana who lived there until 1994, and Pasteur Bizimungu who lived in the building from 1994 until 2000.
International Museums Day serves to raise awareness of the fact that museums are important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures, and development of mutual cooperation and peace.
In 2003, the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) took over the facility and developed it into one of the country’s eight museums, renaming it the Presidential Palace Museum in the process.
The sprawling facility is located in Kanombe, about four kilometers from the Kigali International Airport.
Although it’s the only contemporary art museum the country has at the moment, it is not the first art museum in the country. From 2006 until 2018, the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda operated an art museum in Rwesero-Nyanza, in a building that was built in the 1950s, and that was supposed to become a new royal palace for King Mutara III Rudahigwa.
At the launch on Friday, entrance to the museum was free, as it was with the other museums in the country. The event kicked off with a media briefing addressed by officials from the Institute if National Museums of Rwanda (INMR), and the Rwanda Art Council. Thereafter, guests were taken on a guided tour of the museum.
Inside the museum, one is greeted by art works that were initially exhibited at Rwesero, in addition to other relevant artworks that were recently acquired from different Rwandan artists.
According to officials from the INMR, the idea to transform the building into an art museum came from suggestions left by visitors, while other suggestions came from local visual artists.
In all, there are 127 artworks produced by 51 different artists on display on the museum walls. The pieces range from sculptures, paintings, to mixed media and ceramics.
Although the exhibition is themed “Art For Peace”, it also includes a few other random well produced art works, even when they tell a different story.
“The aim here is to expand each year the number of artworks in this exhibition, but also expand art related activities. This is in line with the INMR mission, which is to promote art in general and to encourage innovation in particular,” explained Robert Masozera, the Director General of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.
“From now on, this museum is a meeting place for various forms of art, where visitors have the opportunity to enrich their experience and pleasure.
The Rwanda Art Museum will be a place for inspiration, a place for exchange of experience between local and international artists, and a place they can call their own. It is not only a place for artists to exhibit but also space to sell their artworks.
This means that both sides will benefit from the new collaboration: INMR is fulfilling its mission, and artists benefitting the space given to them to exhibit their works,” he added.
However not every artist will be allowed to use the space. One needs to be a member of the Rwanda Art Council (RAC), in line with the ministerial policy that fosters collaborative work.
The museum also possesses a kids studio, a place where children, after visiting the museum, can sit and use different materials such as paints and pencils to express their different views and talents.