Rosemary Karuga

(b. 1928) Kenya
The Story

Rosemary Karuga was born in 1928 in Meru, Kenya. Her artistic talents were recognized at a young age, and encouraged in school. She went on to study design, painting, and sculpture at Makarere University’s School of Fine Art in Kampala, Uganda from 1950 to 1952 – the first woman to do so. After graduating, she returned home to Kenya, married, and became a full time art teacher in elementary schools.

Her prominence as an artist came only in 1987 after her retirement, when she was almost 60 years old

She worked as the Artist-in-Residence at the Paa ya Paa Arts Centre in Nairobi.

Her global rise came later, in 1990s, with exhibitions of her commissioned work for Amos Tutuola’s magical book, The Palm Wine Drinkard, in Paris, in London at the Commonwealth Institute, and at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

In 2017, she was named Artist of the Month by the National Museums of Kenya.

Rosemary Karuga is a collage artist: “Inspired by Byzantine mosaics, she creates colourful paper collages of people, animals and landscapes of intense strength. Her work reflects her direct environment in figurative representational art.” Today Rosemary lives in the UK with her daughter.