Born in Kigali, Rwanda, Duhirwe Rushemeza's artwork engages complex narratives to discuss issues of displacement, personal and material memory, cultural adaptation, and what it means to be an immigrant today. Her work calls into question assumptions around hybrid identity in this increasingly globalized world. In exploring these issues, Rushemeza focuses on the transitional material of iron oxide as well as industrial thin-set mortar/concrete to create her paintings and installations. She coalesces disparate components to suggest geographical collision. The assemblage process that hold the objects together is directly visible, and at times impermanently constructed, reflecting the ephemerality that is inherent in a nomadic existence.
Rushemeza's work brings to mind the deteriorating colonial buildings she witnessed on the coasts of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in her youth and suggests polarizing histories imprinted in the different layers of her “sculptural paintings.” The metal detritus along with the loose handling of the many layers of paint, revealed through a process of sanding and carving, contrast greatly with the rigid patterns inspired by imigongopaintings — an art form that emerged at end of the 18th century in the Kibungo province (South-East Rwanda) and consist of traditional geometric designs created using calf dung. All of the components in the resulting terrain of Rushemeza’s work create objects that suggest the works have been excavated from an old colonial structure and represent a small part or puzzle piece of a larger mass.