From those who make and access art to the basic definition of art, street art is changing the face of the African continent. A subset of public art, street art takes many forms including, but not limited to, graffiti, mural, wheat-paste, stick, and projection art. By bringing art into public spaces, street-artists are able to reach new audiences and stimulate reflection and dialogue within communities, while also using their work as tools for activism and social change.
In the past five years, there have been numerous collaborations across the continent between established street-artists and local communities. These artists come to communities with very little to no public art and co-create different works.
WiseTwo, a Nairobi-based street-artist who participated in Spray for Change as well as other collaborations across the globe, visited Rwanda this month to work with artists from Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga, a Rwandan social enterprise that engages civil society to create art in public spaces. Artists working with Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga, which means “to create, to see, to learn” in Kinyarwanda, have tackled social challenges, such as HIV-related stigma, access to water, and education, in their previous projects while simultaneously pushing for greater creative outputs.
The two-week street art collaboration was the first of its kind in Rwanda, and included technical skill-building workshops on graffiti techniques, including spray-painting and stenciling, as well as a public lecture and participatory art projects at three commissioned sites within Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
The visual art scene in Kigali is still in its early stages. It is mostly set within galleries and studios with artists painting acrylic on canvas works that are mostly consumed by tourists. Judith Kaine, the founder of Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga, is working with WiseTwo to introduce Rwandan artists working in Kigali’s galleries and studios to public art. Their goal is to make Kigali’s bare streets more vibrant and colorful.
WiseTwo along with fifteen Rwandan artists took to the streets of Kigali to design and paint their first work: a two-story mural on the street-facing wall of The Office, a co-working space for professionals and entrepreneurs located down the road from the President of Rwanda’s home.
When painting on the streets, artists were faced with unfamiliar challenges: members of the community observed and participated in the creation of the art and early morning storms influenced their productivity.
Constraints, such as environment, time, and budget, push artists technically and invite them to find inspiration from the context in which they are working. hg