On 10th February, Kenian pioneer artist Rosemary Karuga has passed away in the age of 93.
Rosemary Karuga, Untitled, 1998. Detail. 40x57cm. Courtesy Red Hill Art Gallery
11. February 2021
Rosemary Karuga was a true pioneer – one could say, that the history of women’s art in Kenya starts with her. She was born in 1928 in Meru, Kenya and was the first female student at Makarere University’s School of Fine Art in Kampala, Uganda, where she studied from 1950 to 1952 design, painting and sculpture.
After graduation she moved back to Kenya and became a fulltime teacher. With almost 60, she again took up her artistic career, starting with an Artist-in-Residency at the Paa ya Paa Arts Centre in Nairobi. Inspired by Byzantine mosaics, she created colorful paper collages of people, animals and landscapes, that reflected her direct environment. In 1990 she gained international recognition, when she was part of the group exhibition Contemporary African Artists – Changing Tradition at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
“Karuga is a significant link between the past and future of women artists in East Africa today. She is also a respected innovator who dared to branch out and break new ground with her art, hence paving new pathways for others. Using the easily accessible material of newspapers and magazines, Karuga has over the years developed an approach to collage that at the time was unique in East Africa. Her images harness both extraordinary detail and charming simplicity”, Mbuthia Maina wrote two years ago about Karuga in a feature for C&.
Rosemary has lived with her family in Ireland, where she received a lifetime award by the African Voice Newspaper in 2013.
Our thoughts and condulences are with her family and beloved ones.