Kigali’s Ishiyo Arts Centre grows from mobile library to cultural hub

On 22 May, reported:

“We wanted to create a space where traditional and contemporary  artists could meet, exchange, develop and also present artworks to the  Rwandan audience,” said Carole Umulinga Karemera, Chairperson Ishyo Arts  Centre, and Artistic Director.

At that time, there was not any cultural centre in Rwanda, apart from  the French cultural centre, which had also closed at the time.

The centre began with a mobile library at first to emphasise  literature and reading culture; it comprised of books and training  artists who could move to different places and could perform for free  especially in several public schools for mainly kids.

“We did this for two years. At first it wasn’t easy since they had to  handle lots of things which included; training, production and audience  development at the same time. We would wonder why Rwandans were not  interested in the shows since there was a very low turn up,” said  Carole, as she is fondly known.

They then decided to do performances in bars since most people could  be found there. “We had to look for places where many people were and  build a relationship with them and it surely worked out because the  audience grew bigger and bigger,” added Carole.

Ishyo Arts Centre currently has various productions from within the  country and abroad. It co-founded two festivals, organises trainings for  professional artists in; music, visual arts, animated films, dance,  theatre, and playwriting.

Ishyo also does advocacy for the arts which involves supporting the  government to develop cultural policies which are relevant for the  artists and for the cultural environment, support artists in developing  applications forms to assist them to participate in festivals abroad  where they can market their work.

“We have around 6-20 performances every month, which include shows  like; ‘Spoken Word, ‘Comedy kNight’ – we also host international  well-known writers who meet local writers, students among others. We  reach out to the international community to let them know of what’s  happening in the field of contemporary art in Rwanda,” said Carole.

Among the centre’s achievements has been the partnership with Germany under which Goethe-Institut – Rwanda was born.

“We’re also in partnership with Belgium and several universities in  the U.S. and currently a lot of researchers and artists are aware of  what is happening as regards to the field of contemporary art in Rwanda  through this centre,” she noted.

According to Nadia Nkwaya, the centre’s Project Manager, art is all  about education and “here the youth are mainly our target group.”

“In building the audience, we meet students in schools through  performances in art competitions where they get to know about a  director, an actor, a writer – and the processes involved, why they  should watch and like art,” said Nkwaya.

“We aim at maintaining quality-we don’t give away empty content, we  are very selective in partnerships that we do with artists, we believe  in works that are professional,” added Oriane Ruzibiza, Ishyo’s  Executive Director.


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