Jak Katarikawe

Jak Katarikawe Bio(b.1940) Katarikawe is East Africa's most famed resident artist and one of Africa's finest with a personal life story as fascinating as the mirthful images he's poured onto canvas for over 50 years. Self-taught, the Ugandan-born maestro never went to school although in his adulthood a professor at Kampala's Makerere University invited him to sit in some of his art classes – provoking unsporting protest from some snooty students. Dream catcher personified, Katarikawe hardly ever paints any oeuvre that hadn't been gestated in one of his lurid, often spiritual, dreams. Some call him Africa's Chagall for his pastoral storytelling and deceptively whimsy compositions. His cosmos is a magical poetic place where there's no separation between humans and animals. Mothers with babies strapped on their back float above open fields, homesteads and livestock. Roguish elephants, lions, zebras, birds and, especially his signature long-horned Ankole cows, symbolizing wealth bestowed by the ancestors, fall in love, marry, protect their offspring, cheat on spouses, betray trust and alliances, make war and peace – just like humans. In a tragicomic oeuvre a polygamous bull raped one of his wives and paid a heavy price exacted by the community – castration. "You must never rape, not even your wife," Katarikawe admonishes. Before There Was No Underwear shows a bosomy Mama squatting under a tree smoking a pipe, thighs opened just-so, lush private parts exposed. Yes, the spirit -medium Katarikawe can be erotic-kinky too. Au fait, his women had been flashing their pudenda long before Hollywood showed a knickersless Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. Ask Katarikawe the meaning of a painting and he'd ask you to sit down and have a drink. You'd have to listen to the long-winded superstition-replete occurrence that inspired the work. Some titles run over several lines, such as: "This lion when it came in the homestead the husband thought it was going to kill people but he saw that the lion only wanted to have sex with his wife and the husband started laughing at the sight of what the lion was doing to his wife and as the man laughed the lion shut him up by shoving its tail into his mouth." This masterpiece hangs in the Museum für Volkerkunde, Hamburg, which owns 139 other Katarikawes. The most widely collected painter of his generation Katarikawe is the first known African to have had his work in the corridors of the Kremlin. His catalogue raisonné published in 2005 is a collector's item and some of his works, such as Wedding Night, have been used on covers of many publications as well as in a film poster.

"My brush speaks better than my tongue"

Solo Exhibitions
1966 Uganda Museum and National Theatre, Kampala, Nommo Gallery, Kampala
1970 Nommo Gallery, Kampala
1974 Textile Craft School, Kampala
1975 The Commonwealth Institute, London; Africa Heritage, Nairobi; Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1977 French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
1980 French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
1982 French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
1990 Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth, Gallery Watatu, Nairobi ; Nairobi Safari Club
1991 MV, Frankfurt
1992 MV, Leipzig
1993 French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
1994 A Retrospective, Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1998 A Retrospective, Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1999 French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
2001 Galerie 37, Frankfurt
2014 The Kenya National Museum, Nairobi

Joint/Group Exhibitions
1967 Institute of Adult Education, Kampala; New Stanley Hotel, Nairobi
1968 Kibo Gallery, Moshi; Paa ya Paa Gallery, Nairobi; Nommo Gallery, Kampala
1969 Union Carbide, New York
1971 UNESCO Travelling Exhibition, Switzerland and USA; 1975 Africa Centre, London; MV, Frankfurt;
Commonwealth Institute, London
1977 Second International Black & African Festival of Arts & Culture, Lagos
1978 Berlin Arts Festival, Berlin; Travelling Exhibition (Bremen, Stockholm, Erlangen, Amsterdam, Frankfurt)
1979 Ubersee Museum, Bremen
1980 Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam; Liljevalch Konsthalle, Stockholm; Buchmesse, Frankfurt; Stadtische Galerie im Schlossgarten, Erlangen
1981 The Commonwealth Institute, London
1983 Gallery Watatu, Nairobi; Linden Museum, Stuttgart; Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart; Visual Arts- Kenya 20th Independence Anniversary, Nairobi
1984 East Africa Contemporary Art, Commonwealth Institute, London; Kulturamt, Hannover; Katholische Akademie, Hamburg; The International Monetary Fund, Washington
1985 Kenya Freedom From Hunger, Sarit Centre, Nairobi
1987 Deutsche Stiftung fur Entwicklungsländer, Feldafing
1989 Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1990 Technische Universiteit, Eindhoven
1991 Gallery Watatu, Nairobi; Frauen der Welt, Koln; French Cultural Centre, Nairobi; Neue Kunst aus Afrika, Frankfurt
1992 Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1993 Entdeckungen, Ludwigshafen; French Cultural Centre, Nairobi; Kenya Festival Arts Auction, Nairobi;
Goethe Institut, Nairobi; Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst, Aachen; Africa Contemporary Art, Gallery Parco, Tokyo and Nagoya; Gallery Watatu
1994 Pan African Congress, Kampala; Group 94 & Gallery Watatu, Nairobi; Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1995 Charity Art for National Spinal Injury Hospital, Stanley Hotel, Nairobi
1995 Africus-Johannesburg-Biennale '95, RSA; Das Neue Afrika, Kunsthalle Frankfurt; French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
1996 Kunsthaus am Schloss, Aschaffenburg; Regierungsprasidium, Darmstadt; GTZ, Eschorn
1997 Botanic Museum, Brussels; Katarikawe & Kitengela Glass, Nairobi
1998 The Spirit Lives On, Paa ya Paa & Gallery Watatu, French Cultural Centre, Nairobi; A Retrospective Katarikawe & Mbutha, Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
1999 Gallery Watatu, Nairobi
2000 Art Explosion, The Village Market, Nairobi; Galerie 37, Frankfurt; Our World Year 2000, Mall Galleries, London; WTC, Stockholm; United Nations, NY; Kentaro Gallery, StudenCH
2001 Galerie 37 Frankfurt; Museum fur Volkerkunde Hamburg; Rahimtullah Museum of Modern Art-RAMOMA Nairobi
2004 French Cultural Centre, Nairobi
2006 Dakar Art, Dakar
2008 The National Museum, Nairobi
2009 Africa-Europe, European Union, Brussels
2009 China International Gallery Exposition (CIGE Art Fair), Beijing
2010 Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg
2011 The Three Veterans - Watatu is Back! Gallery Watatu, Nairobi

Art Prizes
• 1st Prize - Premio Internazionale Khronos, XXI Giornata della Cultura, Rome, 1994
• Windsor & Newton WW Millennium Comp, Kenya Round Winner, London-Nairobi, 1999
• Best of 21st Century Art in Kenya, Jury's Choice, Alliance Française & Goethe Institute, Nairobi, 2006.
• Commonwealth Prize, 1st in category, London, 2008


Back to top