Musical Heritage reverberates at Kigali Photography Center with ’INTWATWA’ Exhibition

By Josepha Mafubo
On 13 August 2023 at 07:44

At the renowned Kigali Photography Center, the ancient rhythms of Intwatwa have found a new voice. The ’INTWATWA’ exhibition unveiled recently on Friday 11th August 2023, provides a visual exploration of Rwandan musical traditions, drawing visitors into a rich exposition of sound and culture.

This unique showcase represents a collaboration between seasoned professionals based in Kigali, and six individuals from the communities of Gasogi and Nyabageni. Their collective endeavor led to capturing the essence of the musical heritage of historically marginalized people in photographic form.

The resulting collection, brimming with vibrant images of chants, claps, and instrumentals, is a testament to the community’s resilience and enduring spirit. Each photograph in the exhibit, from contributors such as Alex Shema, Samson Eric, and Iris Twahirwa, among others, encapsulates a blend of talent and dedication, creating an immersive visual experience.

The project, receiving significant backing from Rights4Time and executed in partnership with AIMPO, Next Level Projects, and the Kigali Photography Center, is an invitation to experience Intwatwa music from a fresh perspective.

One of the highlights of the exhibition was the surprising dance performance and music from the community.

Rodriguez Iragena, the curator of the exhibition, who has been in the Rwandan creative industry for the last 8 years, and the organizer of the Virunga Festival, explained that Intwatwa is a rhythm, a melody just like Gushayaya or ikinimba, intwatwa is a rhthym in the rwandan culture.

"We recorded music and trained men and women from Nyabageni and Cyaruzingi. This work here is a project we have been working on for the last 3 months," he said.

" I have learned a lot while doing this project, and at the top of what I have learned is that people can surprise you if you give them the opportunity to narrate their own stories," Iragena continued.

Alex Shema, one of the artists in the exhibition also mentioned that he not only gained friendships but also learnt the musical heritage of Rwanda and how the music they make has been passed on for generations.

"The music was to serve the kingdom and entertain others in the community. Even though there is no active passing on of these musical skills, it is something they do so passionately as it’s in them. And that there’s so much we don’t know. As we embrace other cultures and try to include and adopt them, there’s still so much we can learn from our rich history and heritage," said Shema.

Eric Samson, one of the community members who has learnt the art of photography, is a happy man, as his photos are displayed in the gallery. He says that he tried to combine his love for music and the new art of photography. He is a musician who uses readily or recycled available instruments such as a bottle of water or soda or clay vase.

As the attendees moved from one photograph to the next, the exhibition served as a reminder of how art can emerge from any corner, not just from those who wear the badge of a ’professional.’

Kigali’s thriving arts scene, with exhibitions like this, continues to solidify its reputation as an epicenter for creativity and collaboration in the heart of Rwanda.

Photos by Bruno Walter and Prince Munyakuri