Car Guard to Artist

Car Guard to Artist

Once a refugee‚ then a shopping centre car guard‚ now a landscape painter under the tutelage of his idol. Eric Karangwa has had an unlikely journey.  The 33-year-old Rwandan artist‚ who has spent a decade fleeing political violence in central Africa‚ will hold his third solo exhibition at the Constantia Village shopping centre at the end of the month.

He loved sketching as a child and fostered his passion for art as he moved from country to country as a refugee.

“The more I kept on meeting people who loved art‚ the more it touched me. It was in my blood‚” he said.

But Karangwa only began painting in 2006 after he arrived in South Africa‚ inspired by local artist Andrew Cooper‚ whose work was on exhibition at Constantia Village where Karangwa has worked as a car guard since 2005.

“When I saw his work I was shocked‚” he said. “In my life‚ that was the first time I had seen a painting that realistic. I couldn’t even imagine how he created something like that. It was three-dimensional. My dream was to meet him one day.”

Karangwa got his wish in 2014 when Cooper learnt of him through a newspaper article publicising his first exhibition. Karangwa listed him as one of his inspirations‚ and Cooper was honoured.

He sought out Karangwa and agreed to mentor him. They now work together every week at Red the Gallery in Tokai.

Karangwa started selling his paintings for about R1000‚ but this year he sold one for R7000.

Eager to learn‚ he had improved by leaps and bounds and developed a detailed eye‚ said Cooper.

“He’s like a sponge. He sucks everything in. Every week to the next week‚ you can just see the jumps. Most artists don’t improve that quickly.

“Eric’s improvement has been so much quicker. His natural ability‚ along with his drive — he has all the ingredients for success.”

Article by Karen Gwee | May 03, 2016 | Sowetan