Rosemary Karuga (Kenyan, 1928 – 2021)
Untitled (Three Birds), circa 1990s
Unsigned, undated, with a certificate of authenticity
41.2 x 28 cm
Ksh 200,000 – 300,000 ARR
(US$) 1,750 – 2,600
Provenance: private collection
Sold Ksh 399,160
Rosemary Karuga’s lifetime of remarkable achievements has placed her as a major figure in Kenya’s modern art history. In 1950 she became the first female student to attend the Margaret Trowell School of Fine and Applied Arts in Kampala, where she trained in clay work, wood carving and stone carving. Following her graduation, Karuga worked for many years as an art teacher in rural Kenya and it was only on her retirement, at nearly 60 years old, that she pursued a professional art practice.
Using mostly paper packaging, newspapers and magazines, Karuga developed an approach to collage which was unique at the time in East Africa, creating images which harness both extraordinary detail and charming simplicity.
Karuga’s international reputation grew when she exhibited in a group show alongside El Anatsui and Ablade Glover at the Studio Museum in New York in 1990. She was asked to illustrate a book by the Yoruba writer Amos Tutuola and the resulting exhibition took the artist and her collage works to Paris. As well as continuing to feature in international exhibitions, Karuga’s recognition increased at home as one of Gallery Watatu’s most highly esteemed artists, and in 2017 she was named Artist of the Month by the National Museums of Kenya. Karuga passed away last year in Ireland, where she had lived since 2006.