Painting classes in Kigali


We’ve been having a great time with the kickoff of our painting classes. Joe has a group of students who have come to Tongo each week to learn the craft of painting on our small veranda with a view of Kigali.

The classes are about an hour and a half and developed according the students’ skill set. Joe teaches all classes himself in either basic English or fluent French. He draws from his extensive technical training at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Kinshasa and focuses on encouraging each individual's unique sense of creativity. 

Classes start out with the basic theory behind composition and color through demonstrations and personal reviews of each students work. You'll learn how to begin a painting through the developing of a background and the multiple layers which bring a painting to life. But mainly, its about coming together to practice art and enjoy the surprises that come about through the mixture of creativity and acrylic.


The classes currently offered are for adults (aged 16+) and we have both private and small group sessions. If you sign up for a set of 4 classes, we’ll even give you a package deal! Materials are not included but students are able to use our brushes and for a small additional fee we’ll provide both paint and prepared canvases. 

Check out more details below on the classes and schedule your first sesson!

Painting Class Pricing

Private Sessions

  • $30 per class
  • Package: $110 for 4 classes

Small Group Sessions (2+ students)

  • $25 per class
  • Package: $90 for 4 classes

Material Fees::

  • $5 paint fee per class or $15 per package allows you to use our paints
  • $8 per medium canvas (stretched and prepared)
  • Brushes, easel and water available at no cost

Classes are scheduled according to your availability. Each class is about 1.5 hours but may be slightly longer depending on setup time and number of students in the class so we recommend you plan for about 2 hours. 

To schedule your session, please contact us at!

The stunning view from our back porch and your inspiration during our classes!

The stunning view from our back porch and your inspiration during our classes!

About the Color

We love color - being an art gallery and all. But in particular, we've been really getting into murals. It started with a mural on a shipping container commissioned for Kate Spade & Co's production facility here in Rwanda and then grew into an additional three large interior murals (and you can see a video of Joe painting one of them here). 

It was fun to watch these large pieces come to life and completely change the spaces they now adorn. It's almost like the murals created a habitat of creativity and color where before there were only white walls. 

So, naturally, when we were planning our renovations at Tongo, we wanted to integrate murals as a way to redefine and reinvigorate our space. Here's what we've come up with so far:

Step by Step




Ok, we'll admit it -  it was a little hazardous to get into the gallery a few weeks ago. Tongo sits back from the main road on a steep hill and the only way to our door was down a dirt slope which was muddy and slippery during the rain. 

So we took steps (pun intended) to fix the issue. The photo on the right shows you what our view of the street looks like (and yes, we have fancy neighbors...)

After with New Stairs

Don't you think it looks much better?!  The other thing that's great is the new stairs offer not only Tongo clients easier access to the gallery but also a less treacherous descent for all our neighbors. 

Next up: complete the mural on our fence. 

The Before

To appreciate any present, it’s important to know what came before. And this feels particularly relevant to Tongo Art Gallery and our renovation story.

 An image of the front of the gallery circa Feb 2014

 An image of the front of the gallery circa Feb 2014

Because the thing about Kigali is its rapid-fast-action pace of development. This thanks to a government – and particularly a President – deeply committed to changing the face of this tiny country. Rwanda promotes an image of organized, clean growth. From the swept streets to the manicured lawns and public trash bins, Kigali isn’t like most African cities.

And what this means for residential development  and small business is money. Money. Money. Expats landing in Kigali for their first time in Africa may be shocked to find rent as high (or higher) than many large American cities. And the houses (yes, houses. Apartments are only now becoming a thing) are big and beautiful and new…and expensive.

You may think I digress. My point is this: When Joe and I were gallery-home-hunting, we had a choice.

  • Option 1: Pay a huge amount of money for a big beautiful new house
  • Option 2: Find a smaller traditional space and renovate

Clearly, we went with the latter. But we were SO LUCKY! Why? Because we happened upon a tiny house on the main paved road just behind the President’s Office. Nowadays it’s pretty rare to find such structures in co-habitation with neighbors like the IMF and USAID offices. But the place seemed to be waiting for us…

So in February-ish of 2014 we started our first round of work. Two apartments. The front apartment was slated to be our gallery space and the back apartment would serve as living space for Joe. We were also blessed with a pretty stunning view of Kigali from our rustic back “patio” and a quaint garden space in front. Work needed to be done…but oh, the potential!

Anyway, before I tell you about all the neat changes we’re making, just take a moment to appreciate what came before. The photos tell the real story and how much love and commitment was really required to get things up and running.  Joe and I love this place. We really do. It felt right, you know?