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Kakira – Art Imigongo

imigongo art - Kibungo Rwanda

IMIGONGO is an art form popular in Rwanda. This art form came into being end of the 18th century in the province of Kibungo (South-East of Rwanda), and is traditionally done by women. Originally it was used for decorations inside the walls of huts. The Imigongo paintings are created from calf dung applied to wooden plates, which forms the structure and relief of the paintings. It is often including the spiral and geometric designs in different natural colors, such as black, white and red. Today, even modern designs are made with more variation in colour.

On the road to Rusumo in Eastern Province near Kirehe, there are two women's coops selling this most unique of Rwanda's traditional crafts. Vibrant traditional geometric designs and modern innovations are both available.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Prince Kakira, the son of the King of Gisaka, lived in the Province of Kibungo, known today as Eastern Province. It was then and there that he invented the art of decorating houses. He began to paint geometric motifs directly onto the walls, using different natural colors, such as black, white, and burgundy.

kakira imigongo art rwanda

A crafts cooperative named after Prince Kakira exists in Rwanda today. This cooperative was inspired by the art of the prince, adapting his mural paintings and motifs to create the decorative “IMIGONGO” paintings, which are painted on wooden plates of different sizes. The cooperative still uses natural materials for the paintings, such as, for example, cow dung, which forms the structure and relief of the paintings. Red color is made from natural soil, white color from kaolin. Ocher is gained from clay, while the shining black color is based on the ashes of banana peels, mixed with the sap of the aloe plant as well as with the fruits of the solanum aculeastrum plant.

Today, the paintings created by the members of the KAKIRA cooperative are well and widely known. They are very much in demand, as they constitute unique and typically Rwandan works of art.

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