The Gallery Desiego on Mount Nam in Seoul, South Korea recently hosted the “African Aurora” exhibition, to showcase the diverse and vibrant world of contemporary Rwandan art. Aimed at promoting cultural exchange, the exhibition delved into various forms of art, including abstract forms, mixed media, traditional elements, and social commentary.
The showcased exhibition demonstrated an impressive array of both styles and themes from several Rwandan artists, including Brave Rumariza, Strong Karakire, Daniel Dylan Mucyo, Mukholi Timothy Wandulu, Myriam Uwiragiye, Jemima Akimanizanye, Floride Mukabageni, and Isaac Manirumva.
The exhibition was organized by multidisciplinary artist and creative director Natacha Muziramakenga, in conjunction with Korean curator Son Sung-ik. Muziramakenga emphasized the significance of the exhibition in facilitating conversations that could lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s cultures, fostering cultural exchange between Koreans and Rwandans, and breaking down preconceived notions that people often have about places and their inhabitants.
The exhibition served as a bridge, marking the auspicious milestone of 60 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and Rwanda, uniting diverse Rwandan artists and their unique voices with the people of Seoul.
According to the curator, Mukabageni holds a special place in Rwanda’s contemporary art, as she was one of the first women to be admitted to the Nyundo School of Art and Music.
“Beyond her role as an artist creating interesting works, she has significantly influenced many people and continues to do so. She also serves as a role model for a new generation of women in the visual arts, a field where gender imbalance has been a longstanding issue. Her presence and representation embody the potential for change and inspiration in the art world Muziramakenga told Korea Times.
Myriam Uwiragiye and Jemima Akimanizanye are two exceptionally talented Black female artists whose works explore themes of depression, healing, self-love, and mental health. Myriam’s distinctive style challenges stereotypical representations of Black women in mainstream art, while Jemima’s use of vivid colours and butterfly-adorned faces encourages discussions on mental health, a subject that is often considered taboo. Recently, at an exhibition in Korea, Rwandan artists were gratified by the Korean audience’s fascination and connection to their art. The event proved illuminating, bridging cultural divides, and initiating crucial conversations.
As Jemima Akimanizanye noted, “They can relate to the art we brought in, which connected us and started conversations that are important.” The artists learned a great deal about Korean culture during their visit and discovered surprising similarities between the two cultures.
The artworks of Timothy Wandulu reflect upon his personal experiences and the history of Rwanda, resulting in a profound sense of connection. Similarly, the collages created by MDD entitled “Quiet Screams” delve into themes of loss, self-doubt, and self-hate through the use of mixed media layers. The generational perspective of Rwandan artists is evident in their efforts to maintain peace and harmony through their creative endeavours.
The ‘African Aurora’ exhibition serves as a conduit between Rwanda and Korea, uniting their respective art scenes to foster mutual understanding and cultural exchange. By highlighting Rwanda’s contemporary art, the exhibition underscores the transformative power of artistic expression to transcend geographical and cultural boundaries and forge meaningful connections between disparate communities.