Kefa Frederick Sempangi (Ugandan, born 1939)
Prayers, 1969
Signed ‘Cepha Ssmepange ca 1969’ (verso)
Oil on board
63.5 x 40 cm
Ksh 285,000 – 510,000
(US$) 2,500 – 4,500
Provenance: private collection

Sold Ksh 334,590

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Ugandan artist Kefa Sempangi’s practice spanned surrealist portraiture, abstract painting, found object assemblages and cast bronze. His paintings often navigated themes of religion and morality, exploring internal conflicts with an intense concentration of feeling. He explained, ‘it is these hidden forces behind the natural, behind the superficial, behind the seen, that I dedicate myself to capture and portray.’
Sempangi studied fine art at the Margaret Trowell School of Fine Arts in Kampala and at the Royal College of Art in London, where he graduated in 1970. He went on to complete a PhD in Art History at the Vrije University of Amsterdam. On his return to Kampala, Sempangi was appointed art history lecturer at Makerere University. During this time, his work was exhibited in Uganda and the UK, including at the African Art Centre and the Camden Art Centre in London in 1968 and 1969.

In 1974, Sempangi and his family went into exile in the Netherlands and the USA for six years, where he mobilized funding for Ugandan refugees escaping Idi Amin’s regime and studied Divinity in Philadelphia. On his return to Kampala, Sempangi founded the Presbyterian Church of Uganda and worked as a Reverend and in public office until his retirement – continuing a personal art practice alongside.

His artwork is represented in private and institutional collections in the UK and Uganda, but pieces are rare and hard to find. This painting, completed during Sempangi’s time at the Royal College of Art, was acquired by the current owner directly from the Margaret Trowell School of Fine Art at Makerere University.

Bibliography: Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa. London: Whitechapel Gallery. Art in East Africa, Judith von D. Miller. Frederick Muller Ltd, London, 1975.

This artwork has been cleaned and restored and comes with a condition report.