Early this year, Red Rocks Initiatives for Sustainable Development established an art gallery in Kinigi for the purpose of promoting conservation through arts. The gallery houses exquisite conservation-themed paintings by various artists in Musanze district and even Kigali aimed at educating visitors and locals alike on the importance of environmental conservation. The gallery also has an emporium where research and debates involving professionals, tourism and conservation stakeholders, local leaders and community members can robustly engage in different facets of conservation around the Volcanoes National Parks and the wider Virunga massif. The gallery also hosts handicrafts made by local women.
Red Rocks Initiatives for Sustainable Development is a program under Red Rocks Cultural Center in Musanze district aimed at promoting harnessing tourism, conservation and community development around the Virunga Mountains. At first glance, you may think this is just another art gallery in Rwanda… Until you get the story behind it.
In 2011, Red Rocks Cultural Centre started a program that aimed to promote artist-related activities as one way of conserving the environment around the Volcanoes National Park. Six years later, the local community now has an avenue through which they harvest natural products to make aesthetic pieces of art, which they sell to visiting tourists. This has in essence made them self-reliant, especially the local youth and women with the skills and talent to make such products.
Greg Bakunzi, the founder of Red Rocks Cultural Centre, says of his initiative: “We want to promote environmental conservation through arts and crafts. There are several arsenals in our armory through which we are going to achieve our objectives. After all, arts, crafts and environmental conservation are inextricably linked.” He adds that everyone is welcome to Red Rocks gallery to expose his or her talent, and that the country’s natural heritage must be preserved at all costs.
Bakunzi believes that involvement of the local communities is significant for sustainable management of protected areas. “As a tourism professional, I have come to realize that local communities are responsible for exerting constant pressures and carrying out illegal activities like poaching and harvesting of forests. I came up with this initiative of arts and crafts as a means to achieve our conservation efforts. Eventually, through the education and advocacy programs that we have initiated at Red Rocks, we are going to succeed in our efforts to save the environment and our proud natural heritage,” he says.
And at Red Rocks Cultural Centre, all the arts and craft are made from the natural products, something Bakunzi says is also a natural way of preserving Rwanda’s rich heritage. All these products are displayed at the Red Rocks Art Gallery in Kinigi.
He adds that a good number of both national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now committed to working with the state-run Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to promote community development through arts and crafts. Some of the organizations Bakunzi mentions include Gorilla Conservation Program, Virunga Community Program, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (DFGG), Care International, the Gorilla Organization, Art Conservation, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Rotary Club of Musanze (of which Bakunzi is currently the serving chairperson).
“At Red Rocks, we intend to bring all these organizations together to promote tourism, conservation and community development. That’s what we stand for,” says Bakunzi.
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