The national art gallery is located in the southern province in the town of Nyanza. The beautiful building that host the art gallery stands on top of Rwesero hill on the other side of the famous hill of Rukari that was home to kings of Rwanda.
Mr Ndabaga Karekezi Andre, the manager of the gallery told me that the building is one of Rwanda`s most beautiful building that dates back to 1959 when it was completed to host the palace of King Mutara III Rudahirwa. The building is strong and is built in artistic fashion “the reason why it was chosen to host the national art gallery”, said the manager.
I met Elaine Carwin Pollet , a tourist from Belgium and she said that she was excited to be back in Rwanda after 35 years and see the kind of arts that are displayed in the national art gallery. She noted that she lived in Rwanda from 1972 up to 1978 with her deceased husband who was working for the Belgian technical cooperation.
Lia Gieling from the Netherlands works at the art gallery as a curator. She told me that she has been working at the gallery for 2 years as an expert to organize exhibitions and look for sponsors. She mentioned that last year the national art gallery organized the first international art exhibition ever in Rwanda. “We are now in the process of organizing a new international art exhibition in May which will be much more exciting”, said the curator.
Children were not forgotten in the national art gallery as they have a special room dedicated to them. Karekezi said that before children used to come with their parents and were bored but today the room is there for them to spend their time drawing while their parents are touring different rooms of the gallery. Fiona umutoni who work as a guide in the gallery and also in charge of the kids studio told me that children are invited to come to the gallery to make drawing for the gallery and have fun.
The building that is hosting the national art gallery was finalized in 1959 and the way it looks like is the same ever since as its management has only changed few things such as upgrading colors. The King was intending to move from his former palace in Rukari to Rwesero and the building was meant to host his new palace. “Thinking to build such a palace back in 1959 as a Rwandan, an African in that time without having traveled much in other countries, you just understand that he had a vision”, remarked the manager.
Engineer Roger Dutry from Belgium was heading the construction of the building and construction workers were mainly from the Republic Democratic of Congo as they were ahead of Rwandans in construction field. Unfortunately King Mutara III Rudahirwa could not move in his new palace when it was complete as he found his death in Bujumbura, Burundi . He was part of a movement of African leaders who were seeking independence such as Patrice Lumumba from DRC, Price Louis Rwagasore from Burundi who died during that time.
“Many historians argue that the king was killed by Belgians colonizers even though there is not enough evidence to prove it”, said the manager of the national art gallery. The manager emphasized that the reason is that he left Rwanda in good health to Burundi in 1959 as he was planning to make a foreign trip. He was treated by his Belgian doctor in Bujumbura and his death followed the reason why many think his death was a conspiracy on the part of Belgian colonizers. The national art gallery manager noted that the king had told Rwandans to be ready to replace the colonizers and the later were very upset about the King position.
The palace was later on transformed into a supreme court and the general prosecutor was working there from the period of independence in 1962 up to around the year 2000. After negotiations were held with various ministries, they finally decided to hand over the palace to the national art gallery. “When the gallery started we wanted to do research, education about culture and collection of everything that is related to art in Rwanda”, said the manager of the national art gallery.