Rosemary Karuga: A Pioneer of Kenyan Collage Art
Vibrant Collages of Kenyan Life
Rosemary Karuga (1928-2021) was a Kenyan visual artist and pioneer of collage art in East Africa. Her work is characterized by its bold colors, intricate patterns, and joyful depictions of everyday life in Kenya.
Karuga was born in Meru, Kenya, in 1928. She studied design, painting, and sculpture at the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, from 1950 to 1952. After graduating, she returned to Kenya and worked as an art teacher for over 30 years.
Karuga did not begin to create collages until she retired from teaching in 1987. She was inspired by the Byzantine mosaics she had seen in Ravenna, Italy, and began to experiment with creating her own mosaics out of colored paper scraps. Karuga's collages often depict scenes from everyday life in Kenya, such as women working in the fields, children playing, and animals grazing. She also created collages of landscapes, including the rolling hills of Meru and the bustling streets of Nairobi.
Karuga's work was first exhibited internationally in 1990 at a group show at the St
udio Museum in Harlem in New York City. Since then, her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, including the Tate Modern in London, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., and the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.
Karuga's work is celebrated for its vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and joyful depictions of everyday life in Kenya. Her collages are also praised for their technical mastery and their innovative use of materials. Karuga's work has had a significant impact on the development of contemporary art in Kenya and across East Africa.