Rosemary Karuga (Kenyan, 1928 – 2021)
The Family, circa 1960
Unslgned with certificate of authenticity
Terracotta clay
88 x 55 x 53 cm
Ksh 250,000 – 700,000 ARR
(US$) 2,200 – 6,100
Provenance: acquired by Rhodia Mann from her parents, Erica and Igor Mann’s collection
Sold Ksh 821,800

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.

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 this year in Ireland, where she had lived since 2006.

This large-scale clay sculpture is a rare example of her three dimensional work and will the first time many people have seen her sculptures.