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Wandulu, the ‘crazy’ artist who transforms trash into sublime pieces of art

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By Joseph Ondiek

Most cities around the globe are grappling with the problem of how to manage trash. The litter not only makes city streets unsightly but also is a chocking threat to the environment. And as long as industrialisation is still with us, the more this challenge is going to be increasingly enormous.

Many people and tourists who visit Kigali are always awestruck by its clean streets. But how does this small but fast-rising city manage to maintain that enviable image?

Timothy Wandulu, a Kacyiru-based youthful visual artist, might just have the solution: turn these discarded piece of junk into sublime pieces of art. And help to save our environment in the process.

At his Concept Art Studio in Kacyiru, what first strikes your eyes as you enter the compound is a heap of discarded materials that would make you think you are visiting a trash disposal yard.  

But when you enter the gallery, you stare in utter amazement at the aesthetic pieces of art made from trash hanging on the walls while some are sitting on the floor. God, in his mysterious ways can transform an ugly and despised caterpillar into a beautiful and gay butterfly, and Wandulu is artistically playing God.

The first compelling feature you’re going to see is the dozen or so of umbrellas in bright rainbow colours hoisted up on the elevated patio, a feature that can “spark conversation.”

Still on the patio are some few art pieces like few seats improvised out of found wood and other objects like plastic jerrycans.

Apart from the wood and metal procured from wood and metal workshops, Wandulu’s workstation is also littered with discarded materials like scrap wood and metal, including motorcycle parts, plastic water bottles, wire, rags, fiber to paper — basically anything disposed of that he chances upon.

Wandulu explains that whenever he shows up along the street picking discarded materials, people conclude that he’s crazy or demented.

“What they do not know is that I am collecting materials for my art pieces from which I earn a living, but at the same time also contributing to conservation of the environment,” he says.

He continues, “When my mind connects with the environment, it lights up my creativity. I’m trying to knock on people’s senses to have a sense of care for the environment.”

One conspicuous piece of art made exclusively from recycled motorcycle parts embedded together is called ” Inyambo.” Inyambo is Kinyarwanda word for the long-horned cow that has strong socio-cultural significance among the traditional Rwanda community, and Wandulu says that this is a great way to “preserve our cultural heritage through art.”

Wandulu honed his craft at Inema Arts Center in Kacyiru, where some of his installation and collectible art pieces can still be seen.

At inema, he established a reputation for recyclable art, creating beautiful art out of scrap, waste and litter.

Early last year, in February, the artist parted ways with Inema Art Center to start his own – Concept Arts Studio just a few blocks down the street from Inema.

Trash has had a place in avant-garde art since the early 20th century, when Marcel Duchamp introduced the idea of the ready-made: any slightly modified, often discarded, manufactured object selected and displayed as an art piece. 

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