New generation in Rwanda reclaims future through arts and creativity
“Rwanda is an experimental place. I suppose it is part of our DNA.” Carole Karemena, a veteran cultural manager, reflects on the reason behind the recent surge of creative energy in her native country. Having founded Ishyo Arts Centre 12 years ago with the vision of making cultural experiences accessible to all, Carole has been at the center of the creative renaissance in this eastern African country.
Over the years, the cultural manager has closely observed the development of creative sectors across the world while traveling extensively as an actor and an advocate for creativity. What became increasingly clear was the lack of professional training opportunities in the Rwanda: “There is not enough schools teaching artists how to monetize what they do, and the cultural value chain is non-existent.” When Ishyo Arts Centre was selected as the national implementation partner of Strengthening the Cultural and Creative Industries in Rwanda, a two-year project financed by Republic of Korea’s Funds-in-Trust to UNESCO, the team started by asking a simple yet revealing question: What skills do Rwandan artists and creative workers need to take their creations to the next level? More than 1,750 responses later, cultural management classes with focus on budgeting, funding, contracts and marketing strategy were conceived, reflecting the practical and urgent needs on the ground. At the end of the two-year project, around 100 creative professionals from across Rwanda gained practical management skills.
Being a female artist - It wasn't easy at first, but I was ready to fight for it.
Weya Viatora, singer
While the project covered a wide range of disciplines including music, theatre, film production, visual arts and creative entrepreneurship, an integration of theories and practice was at the core of every module. The Visual Arts Curatorship Training dedicated each afternoon to visit local exhibition spaces in order to learn from real-life curatorial examples, while the Film Production and Management Training encouraged the participating filmmakers to put their newly acquired knowledge to the test by writing and producing a short film, screened at the end of the workshop.
UNESCO’s workshop came at an opportune time when she prepares for the release of her second album in 2020. “I was surprised by how practical it was. We learned about the entire chain of music production from creation to reaching the listeners.” The singer found the segment on copyright to be particularly enlightening. “Today, I know all the advantages of copyright registration and how relevant it is to my livelihood. When you register your music, not only the musician, but also the producers and the composers are compensated – it magnifies the value and the incentive of the production. The room full of musicians and producers had the same epiphany.” The participants also found the online music platforms interesting. “In Rwanda, you bring your new music to the radio station as it is still the best way to make money and reach the public and. Afterwards, you may be invited to perform on air or book a show. Online platforms are still new and we don’t make too much profit from that yet.”
Carole Karemena, today the Executive Director of the Centre, has an immense hope for Rwanda’s young artists. “Today’s young generation, they are fully African and proud. They make courageous art that faces our difficult past instead of turning away. They are fragile and solid at the same time.” Weya, who was born two years after the genocide, agrees. “Back then, music was used to spread the hate - I want to heal damages done by music with music. Last year I released a song about forgiveness in Rwanda about the duty of our generation to heal the wounds. Because one day, we are going to be the older generation.”