East Africa

Remembering Rosemary Karuga

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Kenyan artist Rosemary Karuga has made a significant impact on the African art community, particularly in the contemporary scene ; through her unique style and powerful imagery. She passed away at the age of 93 on the 9th of February 2021. Karuga is well known for her vibrant paintings that blend elements of African tradition with contemporary themes and techniques, resulting in works that are both aesthetically pleasing and thought-provoking. Karuga’s technique is heavily inspired by Byzantine mosaics. In creating her very personal expression, she used coloured paper scraps, newspapers, glossy magazines and packaging materials that result in elevated torn and cut paper collages.

Image courtesy of Red Hill Art Gallery

One of the most notable aspects of Karuga’s practice is her ability to address important social and political issues through her paintings. She often explores themes such as poverty, gender inequality, and the impact of modernization on traditional ways of life in Africa. Her work provides a window into the struggles and challenges faced by many people in Kenya and other African countries, and serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing need for change and progress.

Karuga’s impact goes beyond her artistic creations, as she is also a respected educator and cultural activist. She has worked to promote the importance of African art, and has provided opportunities for young artists to develop their skills and learn about the rich cultural heritage of Kenya and Africa. Her passion for the arts and her commitment to cultural preservation have inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps, and her legacy continues to live on through the work of these artists.

Image courtesy of Red Hill Art Gallery

In addition to her artistic and cultural contributions, Karuga is also remembered for her dedication and commitment to her craft. Despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles, she has remained steadfast in her pursuit of artistic excellence, and her unwavering commitment to her work has earned her the respect and admiration of the art community both in Kenya and internationally.

The importance of remembering Rosemary Karuga lies in her ability to use her art to tell powerful stories, address important social and political issues, and promote cultural heritage and education. Her contributions to the art world serve as a reminder of the important role that artists play in shaping our understanding of the world and of the issues that are important to us. By remembering her, we are able to gain a deeper appreciation for the richness and diversity of African art, as well as for the ways in which contemporary artists are using their work to engage with and address the important issues of our time.


Joy Adeboye is a creative writer and visual storyteller. She is a graduate of the Department of English and Literary Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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