Artist uses art to depict beauty, struggles, generosity
By Joseph Ondiek
On a recent visit to Abien Arts Center in Kigali, we found the proprietor and resident artist, Fabien Akizimana busy on pieces he hoped to present to the panel of The East Africa Art Biennale association (EASTAFAB), from where the best artist is going to walk away with prizes and the chance to exhibit his works in galleries across East Africa. The winner will be announced later this year in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania and it could be Akizimana. In which case, the winning work will most likely feature a woman or women. They are his pet subject and he mainly paints them in his favourite strong colors and distorted forms.
One of the sublime artworks that grace the walls of his gallery is titled `The Uburanga’, a Kinyarwanda word roughly translated as “the beauty”.
It is a 94x90cm acrylic on canvas that has a distorted image of the face of a woman painted in a rainbow of strong raging colors.
Akizimana says his intention is not to paint facial beauty as the abstract painting depicts, because to him beauty of a woman is not only seen on her face but also in her heart.
“When you see those beautiful faces of a woman used in visual advertisements and billboards, it means the woman is using her attractiveness to get money,” he says and usually the money is to help her family “because a woman is not selfish”.
Another piece is titled “The Vaccination Day” and is a 150x 100cm acrylic on canvas depiction of a group of women, with babies strapped to their backs, and identical umbrellas on their heads, heading towards a vaccination center.
The foreground of this painting is of strong, bright colours while the background is dark to depict the future-women heading to have their babies vaccinated and give them life-against the dark background they are escaping from of diseases like polio that used to disable many children.
This painting, Akizimana says, also depicts how traditional women used to love each other.
“The love among women in the past was just phenomenal. They would inform each other about important happening like vaccination day and head there together. Nowadays we don’t see that kind of love because individualism has come and taken our heart,” he says.
To immortalise the joy of motherhood is another 97x100cm acrylic on canvas, constructive expressionism called `The Gift’.
This piece shows a group of four women who have brought various gifts, balanced on their heads, to a mother who has just given birth. It takes a critical eye to see what this painting means, for even the women themselves appear ghostly in the painting-another distortion of form- but when you see the gifts they are balancing on their heads, which is not easy to see because of the style and colours he uses, you appreciate this is an artist who has broken away from traditional styles of art like realism to bring out succinct message: the traditional women love for their kind, particularly during life-changing occasion like bringing new life to earth.
`Women in Different Activities’, also acrylic on canvas is a portrait of a group of women who have come from the “field”, selling vegetables and tomatoes, digging, and all those activities African women do to sustain their families. It’s a rainy day, and again the umbrellas on their heads, and children strapped on their backs, showcases how women go to great lengths, defying the vagaries of the weather to help their families.
There are other paintings which showcase the unity of African women, and the verdict is that they’re all painted by a talented hand at brushstrokes.