Fabian Mpagi (Ugandan, 1953 – 2002)
Untitled (The Embrace), undated
Signed ‘FABIAN MPAGI’ (lower right)
Oil on canvas
134.5 x 107 cm
Ksh 340,000 – 450,000
(US$) 3,000 – 4,000
Provenance: private collection

An astute draughtsman with a delicate touch, Fabian Mpagi is recognised as one of Uganda’s most refined painters. Using rhythmic chromatic difference, Mpagi’s paintings create a sense of both shattered light and imaginative space – he was influenced by traditional Buganda fables, particularly the legendary creation myth of Kintu and Nnambi, and strove with his use of colour to evoke their mystery. In an interview in 1994, Mpagi explains, “my interest was in the universal concerns of man – both pleasure and pain – so I studied the hidden values of spiritual abstraction”.

After graduating from the Margaret Trowell School of Fine and Applied Arts in Kampala in 1976, Mpagi returned to the university as a postgraduate student and teaching assistant. In 1983 he received a scholarship to study in Florence, Italy. On his return, Mpagi went into political exile in Kenya, where he set up a studio and his artistic career flourished. He won the Habitat Art Competition in 1987 and was awarded a four-month artist residency in Paris. The following year Mpagi returned to Uganda and shortly became the director of the Nommo Gallery, from which he eventually resigned in 1998 in order to devote time to his art.

Bibliography: Lampert C, Havell J (eds). Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1995.