The East Africa Arts Biennale visits Rwanda

The East Africa Arts Biennale (EASTAFAB) is doing its part to integrate East African cultures in Kigali, Rwanda.
Now in its 8th edition, the event is taking place for the first time in each of five East African countries as the curators decided to move the exhibition under the title “Moving Arts Across East African Borders”.

Dr. Kaigho Kilonzo, director EASTAFAB, with artists at the Biennale launch at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi, 23rd Jan 2018. Courtsey EASTAFAB.

Tanzania is the main host for this year’s edition, taking place at Alliance Francais and Nafasi Art Space in Dar es Salaam last year from November 2nd until the 22nd, and at Goethe Institut in Arusha from November 28th to December 4th.

Tanzania has played host to the event all the years since inception, with the organisers collecting works from artists around the region and showcasing them at an exhibition in Arusha. This time however, the curators decided to move the exhibition across the capitals of five countries; Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The grand opening happened in Dar-es Salam, Tanzania on November 2nd last year before it moved to Arusha.

Dr. Kiagho Kilonzo, the programme executive director said this is meant to expose and give artists a challenge and learn from other artists. the exhibition is aimed at the promoting of grassroots artists in East Africa, and driving the integration agenda features works by 62 artists from 11 countries and aims to promote East Africa’s emerging artistic talent.

East African Art Biennale (EASTFAB) was founded in 2003 by Yves Goscinny, art curator and author and Prof. Elias Jengo, artist and Arts professor at the University of Dar es Salaam with the sole aim of promoting visual arts in East Africa. It is registered by the National Arts Council (Baraza la Sanaa la Taifa – BASATA) and is a non-governmental and non-profit association run on a voluntary basis.

An onlooker at the Biennale launch in Rwanda. Courtsey EASTAFAB.

The 2017-2018 exhibition continued to Nairobi, Kenya from December 22nd, 2017 to January 1st, 2018, moving to Uganda from February 2nd until the 8th at AKA Gallery in Kampala. The exhibition currently in Kigali, Rwanda will be showcasing over 100 artworks from around the region. The exhibition will have art displays, live performances and public discussions on art aimed at a cultural exchange. Visual artists Serge Niyonsaba, Regine Woest and Janvier Munezero will represent Rwanda at the exhibition and there will also be guest artists from outside the region.

Fabiola Uwera, a representative of East Africa Art Biennale in Kigali said “We realised that when the event is hosted in only one country, some of the artists failed to attend.” Some of the artists in attendance this year are Fatema Qureish, a paper-quilling artist based in Nairobi who submitted a pair of three-dimensional wildlife images made with rolled-up strips of paper, Joy Maringa, a Kenyan makeup artist, who exhibited her works on abstract lip art, incorporating local ingredients such as rice grains, millet seeds and maize meal and German artist Klaus Hartmann exhibited a series of drawings in Tanzania titled Along the New Road, based on his travels to Makonde in south-east Tanzania.

The exhibition which takes place every two years has been held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with participation by visual and performing artists from across East Africa. It will end in Rwanda on February 18th after which it will move to its final destination at Bujumbura, Burundi from February 22nd -28th. With this platform, visual artists have an opportunity to sell their works. Artists register to participate, and having their works displayed is subject to approval. Beyond paintings on canvas, other artistic styles accepted include digital prints, films, sculptures and ceramics.

EASTAFAB is credited with spurring other cross-border art shows such as the Tinga Tinga exhibition of Tanzanian artists that was held in Kampala last year.