We spoke to New York based sculptural painter Duhirwe Rushemeza about her work, trends in contemporary African art and much more!
Tell us a bit about your work
Recently, especially as Rwanda itself has grown and changed considerably, my work took on a more abstract form looking heavily to my personal hybrid identity as well as the historic reflection of a traditional pre-colonial Rwanda. I am now making large thick textured and layered sculptural paintings with the sensibility of a traditional printmaker. I create these works using industrial materials, like concrete and thin-set mortar, as well as found metal detritus that I embed or incorporate onto the surface of my pieces covered with layers and layers of paint. I later sand down these layers creating similar marks to those I created when I would do my reductive multi-colored linocuts. A lot of the present work is inspired by the Rwandan cow dung paintings called Imigongo.
What are some of the trends you see in contemporary Africa art?
Some of the current trends I am seeing in contemporary African art is this importance to demonstrate the dignity of our people. I think specifically of the work of Senegalese photographer, Victor Diop. There is a beautiful regalness that I see in the subjects he chooses to portray, they remind me of the work of the extraordinary late Malick Sidibe.
Your thoughts on success?
My definition of success has broadened over the years. I still think it’s important to have the freedom to create your work, whether it’s that you have a good enough market or sponsor, to assist in creating without serious financial worry. Another aspect of success I have recently learned to embrace is when you have managed to quiet all the voices in and around you, to the point you are just listening to your own inner voice. All these things are great but I also think that the thought of a future “success” can be paralyzing for your creative process. Sometimes you have to make your work, byanze bikunze (basically come hail or high water) at all odds, whether conditions are optimal or not.