Telling tales of culture with brush

Fabian Akimana’s gradual evolving art brings something into a viewer’s mind.

And, unlike many other Rwandan visual artists, most of Akimana’s latest art forms are elaborate.

Through tales, mainly about Rwandan ancient culture, the 25-year-old paints his way into his fantasy, taking his audience with him.

The visual artist from Ivuka art gallery in Kacyiru, Kigali, holds quite diverse skills, reflected in some of his pieces.

Right from the realism art pieces — which bring to life Rwanda’s ancient cultural figures such as King Rudahigwa and Ndabaga, a renowned ancient warrior — to semi-abstract pieces of cultural activities, there is no doubt that this artist has Rwandan culture at heart.

Drawing inspiration from the divergence in culture, Akimana’s allocated use of colours is one way he continuously uses to express cultural forms. With them, the artist uniquely inter-mixes the deep dark and light colours, moderately.

On canvas, using acrylic paints, a mixed media art form that he also incorporates, he uses materials such as backcloth, ikitenge cloth pieces, papers, sawdust and sand.
He rarely works with oil paints in his paintings since he is gradually adopting a new form of integrating it into his style.

Akimana’s experience of gradually growing in the skill in comparison to his works, through the few prior exhibitions, including Forward Colours, his solo exhibition held in July, Akimana’s use of brush is revealed through his realism and semi-abstract works, which hold diverse forms of skill.

In Forward Colours, an acrylic painting on canvas of agaseke (Rwandan traditional basket), Akimana showcases a smooth touch of colour use. He praises the agaseke for its symbolisms of secrecy and privacy and how it will ever hold a place amongst Rwandan tradition.

His skilful use of oil and acrylic paints when crafting the noticeable piece entitled Hero – a portrait of an ancient Rwandan ruler, King Rudahigwa – is remarkable.

Though only using oil paints when painting the face, he uses acrylics around the entire piece. He, indeed, attained a good and unique touch as the face is of a smooth touch, while surfaces around it portray a rough texture.

“I wanted to discover the effect of both paints,” Akimana explained, adding that he was inspired by the king’s bravery and unity of Rwandans against colonialists.

Heroics of Ndabaga, a semi-abstract piece depicting the bravery of renowned ancient Rwandan female warrior who went to the frontline to prove her worth. This piece, which shares a unique form with Virgin Ndabaga, is painted with acrylics and on canvas. It displays the artist’s unique use of colours and mixed media to derive embroiled images which seem rough, but beautiful, due to their unique patterns.

Wall of Sounds, an acrylic painting on canvas, shows the artistic fusion of Rwandan traditional music instruments such as the inanga (the guitar), umuduli (harp) and ingoma (drums), which the artist strongly believes hold a strong core in unification of society, especially for social gatherings.

Akimana not only centres on Rwandan culture but also depicts modernity and civilisations through pieces such as The Market, which shows women carrying a baby on the back and one in the hand, and Friends Indeed, depicting Rwandans’ social life. These reveal his vast artistic experience through time, which leaves no doubt about his maturity in skill.