Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

3 February 2013

Rwanda: Designing for the Stars, Drawing for the World - Jemima

Painted portraits of her father and mother hang side by side on the wall of her living room, with a self-portrait on another wall. There's also a big painting of a smiling King James.

What explains the presence of the RnB star is that he is the older brother of the artist behind these works, Jemima Akimanizanye, popularly known as Jemima Kakizi. While the 21-year-old has just started her studies at Mount Kenya, she doesn't hide that this was not her first choice.

"My dream has always been to go to arts school but unfortunately we don't have that in Rwanda," she says. "Since my primary school years, I've always drawn comics, and my friends and parents liked them. I know I was born a natural artist, and that's what should be my destiny."

Yet when she was still at high school in 2010, she realized that her dreams might become true when she met folks who went to Ecole d'Arts. Those are the ones who helped her improve her drawing skills and taught her painting.

"When I was learning, I knew that the skills would take me somewhere. It was kind of natural to me, I was always waiting for the moment."

Kakizi says that one major constraint she has is that people aren't familiar with the arts -- especially paintings. "Most of my clients are Rwandans living in the Western as well as Westerners themselves," she says. "When they come here, you find them very interested because they know the importance of having art at home."

According to her, painting never get old, especially original ones made specifically for you. It's different from those sketches that we find hanging in many homes.

When she is drawing, she likes a style called a 'painting series' (see picture). "I think it's a fantastic style which isn't common yet here. It brings the drawings to life and makes paintings become more vibrant than ever."

Jemima Kakizi is also a fashion designer. Currently, she comes up with the designs which she then takes to a tailor because she doesn't have her own sewing machines yet. If you want to know how good she is, just look at the gown worn by Aurore Mutesi when she was crowned Miss Rwanda 2012.

This, too, started doing when she was still in high school. "I used to make earrings out of fabrics and that fascinated other students. They also used to take me with them every time they wanted to buy clothes, shoes and handbags. They said that I had an eye for choosing perfect things."

All her clothes are made with the intention to make people look chic while also traditional, and come with the label "Made in Rwanda."

"Without my mother and brother James, I would get nowhere in the arts. They motivate me in everything, they give me strength to keep on exploring."

Jemima puts all her work on her Facebook page.

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