Reviving a Traditional Art Form in Rwanda after Genocide

Imigongo art is known for its raised black and white patterns. LUIS TATO / AFP
Imigongo art is known for its raised black and white patterns. LUIS TATO / AFP
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Reviving a Traditional Art Form in Rwanda after Genocide

Imigongo art is known for its raised black and white patterns. LUIS TATO / AFP
Imigongo art is known for its raised black and white patterns. LUIS TATO / AFP

A 200-year-old Tutsi art form made with cow dung, Rwanda's imigongo painting tradition has experienced a revival in the Great Lakes nation three decades after the 1994 genocide, becoming a symbol of culture and unity.
Known for its raised black and white patterns, imigongo is widely believed to have been invented by a Tutsi prince in the 19th century, AFP said.
Prince Kakira mixed cow dung and ash to create a material which he used to paint three-dimensional patterns on the walls of his palace in eastern Rwanda's Gisaka kingdom.
The tradition was named after "umugongo", the Kinyarwanda word for "spine", owing to its curved lines, and became popular among rural households where women would use dung and natural pigments made with soil, clay and aloe sap to decorate their homes.
Basirice Uwamariya, founder of the Kakira Imigongo Cooperative in eastern Kirehe district, told AFP she started making art when she was 15.
But the 1994 genocide targeting the Tutsi minority nearly wiped out the tradition, with almost all 15 members of Uwamariya's cooperative killed in a bloodbath that claimed around 800,000 lives across Rwanda, including moderate Hutus.
She lost her husband and multiple relatives, leaving her to fend for herself and her two sons.
"I lived in darkness, in silence," the 53-year-old said, recalling the loneliness that pushed her to revive the cooperative in 1996 and invite other genocide survivors to join her.
Since then, imigongo has evolved.
Traditional patterns exist side by side with modern designs featuring various colors. Natural pigments have been replaced by commercial paints.
Imigongo designs have made their way to upmarket studios and fashion boutiques, adorning garments and wooden artifacts alike, with a market that includes foreigners and Rwandans.
According to Theoneste Nizeyimana, manager of Azizi Life Studio in the capital Kigali, the tradition was once largely limited to eastern Rwanda.
"But after the genocide destroyed everything... people started thinking about how they can bring back their culture. Today, imigongo is appreciated by all Rwandans, not just Tutsi," he told AFP.
"Imigongo is something that brings people together," he said, pointing out that the Kigali boutique and studio holds painting classes for students whose ages range from four to 75 years old.
It also makes business sense, he said, with its instantly recognizable patterns helping to market "made in Rwanda" designs around the world.



Saudi Royal Institute of Traditional Arts Welcomes Pilgrims with Gifts

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA
The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA
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Saudi Royal Institute of Traditional Arts Welcomes Pilgrims with Gifts

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA
The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts has played a key role in this year's Hajj season, continuing its mission to promote Saudi Arabia's rich artistic heritage, in line with the Kingdom's commitment to serving pilgrims, The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.

The institute distributed special gifts to pilgrims, prayer rugs adorned with traditional Saudi artistic engravings from across the Kingdom, including those found on Najdi doors, Rawashin, Sadu textiles, and Al-Qatt Al-Asiri decorations, which are testimony to the remarkable depth of Saudi culture and highlight the unique character of Saudi art forms, SPA said.

Each prayer rug comes with a tri-lingual welcome card (Arabic, English, and Urdu) – a thoughtful effort by the institute to introduce pilgrims to Saudi culture and its treasured traditional arts, the news agency added.