Pacifique began his professional art career when he was 17, and founded Niyo Art Gallery in early 2015. Niyo was created as a community outreach center to help support impoverished children in Kigali. Initially a dance studio, Pacifique's young students would fund raise during dance performances to raise money for school fees. The studio expanded into an art gallery and cultural center, and profits continue to support nearly 120 children through the completion of secondary school. Pacifique has traveled multiple times to the United States to teach Rwandan traditional dance to American children in order to share his culture and his love of creative arts.
There are today 12 artisans and one accountant making up the pottery cooperative. One of them, Louis, has been there since the very beginning. Since pottery is the Batwa’s main occupation – a minority group in Rwanda that constitutes less than 1% of the population – and Louis is a Batwa, the skills of pottery-making have been transmitted to him by his family and community since his young age. Initially, there were 17 local potters working at the cooperative before the genocide. Only Louis remained and decided to become a teacher, sharing his skills and expertise to fellow members in his community who were interested in the art of pottery-making. The clay that they use is locally made as they have all the resources they need around them, both on the hills and in the swamps. The only difference is in terms of coloring and finishing; hues are imported from abroad, mainly Belgium. They ceramics are very high quality and you'll find them for sale at boutique shops Rwanda and abroad.
Students and their parents come from around Rwanda to attend Groupe Scolaire Rosa Mystica. With them, they bring a wide range of skill sets.
Gatagara is a quiet town only a few hundred meters off of the main road from Kigali to Butare. It is world famous for being home to several local pottery cooperatives started back in the 1970's be Belgium nuns. Clay is sourced locally and the coops on the outskirts of town provide quality employment for dozens of residents. Their ceramics pieces are sold locally as well as around Kigali.
For bus transportation, take the Volcano or Horizon bus line from Kigaliy and buy a ticket to Nyanza, however, you will get off a few stops before the town of Nyanza. Once you pass the town of Ruhango it's about 15 minutes more south. Tell the bus driver 'Gatagara' and he will stop for you. Heading north from Butare, again take Horizon or Volcano bus line, but buy a ticket to Ruhango town. Again tell bus driver 'Gatagara' and he will stop. If driving in your own vehicle from Kigali, it's about an hour and half to Ruhango. Continue for 15 minutes past Ruhango on main road (still headed south), until you see the sign for Gatagara. Turn right off main road onto dirt road and continue on dirt road until you reach the center of town. By vehicle from Butare, head north towards Nyanza on the main road, when you reach Nyanza you continue for about 15 minutes on main road until you reach Gatagara, then turn left on dirt road that doubles back up the hill to the center of town.
Gatagara has a relatively small town center but you find a few local restaraunts and shops selling snacks and drinks. The pottery cooperatives are located a few miles east of town with limited shops in that area. The town of Nyanza about 10 miles south of Gatagara along the main road towards Butare has a hotel and more restaraunt options. Overnighting in Buture - where there is a range of accommodation and restaraunt / modern grocery store options - is a good choice too.