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Meet Selek Ubwimana Who Is Going To Have The Art World In His Hands

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I came across Selek Ubwimana’s paintings via Twitter on Thursday, July 16. 2020. What struck me about his unique style was the precise cum minutest of details in the paintings. Looking at the few pictures, he had online, any art collector and connoisseur would easily and readily deduce that he or she was staring at gifted hands right here in Rwanda’s capital; Kigali. Intrigued by this obviously potential global artist tucked in Kigali; I decided to seek him out.

The meetup venue was the Envision Media Arts Collective building in Kigali in the first week of September 2020 and as I waited, a young man (donning a facemask) opened the gate and I walked in. My first impression was that Selek was quite young. As we walked into the main gallery of the building, I was welcomed with a scenery of artistic paintings sitting pretty on the walls and some on the floor. Going through the paintings in the main gallery and in other rooms, I was impressed with the work put in by the different artists. Later on, I discovered that eight of the paintings in the main gallery of the Envision Media Art Collective were by Selek Ubwimana.

The young and gifted artist revealed to me that he began painting as a hobby between 2014 to 2017 but professionally, he started in 2017. As someone who is curious about individuals who are detailed in their works, and in this context about artistic work and perceived artistic excellence, I asked him how many paintings he might have completed? One hundred and forty-seven (147) paintings; came the answer but he could not recollect the number of paintings sold. Surprisingly, I discovered that Selek had also given out some of his paintings for free in the early days of his artistic journey!

As we conversed, I could not but realise that his current collections (which he did in the month of July 2020) are paintings of animals involved in varied forms of human activities. Staring at me was an interesting painting of what I initially assumed was a “lion” dressed in a sweater and a tigress clad in African garment and head gear. The tigress can be seen plaiting/braiding the fluffy hair of the lion; albeit delicately and from a distance. Only for me to discover and realise some minutes later that it was a lioness (and not a lion) with folded palms on a dotted skirt. The subtle distance between the big cats can be explained; for it appears that both big cats don’t actually get along in their habitat.

Selek went further to inform me that an average painting takes two to four days to paint and he spends six hours a day on each painting. There are exceptions to the rule where a painting can take a day. According to the young artist, the painting of Rwanda’s leader, President Paul Kagame took two months and fourteen days (after juggling his memory for the precise month and date, we did some calculations and arrived at the commencement of the portrait was the month of July 2019).
The painting is on a large 140cm by 200cm canvass. It was quite interesting to listen to Selek answer the question of how he accomplished (step by step procedures) the painting and his works in general.

Unassuming dedication and a keen eye for detail were some of the traits one could hear in his words and see in his works. Artists could at times be eclectic in their appearances, and during my meet up with Selek (who also donned a loose durag cum bandana), I quipped (mentally) and wondered if I was looking at a young Egyptian Pharoah from My Book of Bible Stories (a cartooned Biblically themed book for children popular in the late 70s and 80s.)

For someone who studied arts in High School (Ecole d’art de Nyundo, in Western province, Rubavu district) and currently a 200-level student studying digital media production and whose works have been showcased at exhibitions in 2017 in Kigali and in 2019 in New York City; he posits that his reason for painting is to create something different and new and that is his passion. In his words; “A big desire is to be on the international stage as a global artist. In five years, to be a global face in the art world with an innovative perspective. And most importantly grow professionally and financially.”

The more I looked at his paintings, the more I noticed his fascination with ace cards in his current paintings. And the more it became glaring that each painting had a message or should have a message being relayed to the viewer. But I was taken aback to learn that even though each of his paintings has a story behind it, he gets inspiration for the artwork before the message.

As with most deep thinkers and creative persons, the lockdown seems to have given him ample ideas running through his mind. Selek said; “Spending time during the lockdown, I was on Instagram and had a brainwave for these new paintings with an animal theme from the Instagram pictures I flipped through.” Listening to the twenty-three-year-old Selek Ubwimana who has completed 147 paintings in less than five years, and if in this short period his artworks are this detailed and thought- provoking, it is not a question of if he would be a renowned global artist but when (since timing is everything) he would be a renowned global artist whose works would be showcased in global
exhibitions and museums. Figuratively and literally, the level-headed young man with a lot of years
ahead of him, has the art world in his fingers and hands.


In this article:
Dolapo AinaSelek Ubwimana
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