Ugandan Artists: Meet Teresa Musoke

Ugandan Artists: Meet Teresa Musoke

One of the most recognized and influential semi-abstract painters in Uganda.

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: December 19, 2005

The first time I heard of her was when I was eleven years old. I was living and going to school in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her sensational art was the rage in all the Scandinavian countries, with clients clamoring to buy pieces and the media getting itself all worked up into a frenzy, trying to be the first to feature her. I recall the officials at the Ugandan Embassy in Copenhagen being excited about one of her art exhibits. The excitement was infectious and when I finally went to one of her art exhibits with my parents, I could see what the entire hullabaloo was about. Her artwork was spectacular to say the least. I was particularly mesmerized by her beautiful rendition of a leopard.

I was not sure if it was because we share last names (purely coincidental) that I felt a sense of pride for her achievements or whether it was because she was a woman. Whatever it was, it was clear that she was a great source of inspiration and my dream as a little girl was to be associated with her as she was following one of my passions. The fact that she was a woman that had gone against the grain, a woman that had the courage to follow her dreams, a woman who was clearly intelligent and amazingly talented left a powerful imprint on me as a child. More than ten years later, I still have a high regard for this impressive artist.

Teresa Musoke was born in Kampala in 1942. At a time when the number of African women, let alone Ugandan women going to university was meager, she completed her studies at Makerere University, Department of Fine Arts in Uganda, where she extended both her artistic technical knowledge and her artistic imagination. Her career as an artist in Uganda started during hard times.

During that period the country could not offer many opportunities for artists to explore and express themselves. There was scant opportunity for career artists to develop their careers. There was also a negative stigma for those who chose to follow the path as artists and even more so for women. Women were expected to fulfill certain roles and being an artist was not one of them. Moreover, artists were considered as vagabonds, loafers and good-for-nothings. It was not considered a career that a serious person would take.

It was in this milieu that Teresa would excel, despite all the obstacles and challenges. Her work while an undergraduate drew almost instantaneous recognition; beginning in 1964, she began receiving prestigious commissions for which she produced her famous birth mural for Makerere' University’s Mary Stuart Hall, National parks of Kenya, and Entebbe International Airport. Although she was ecstatic with joy, Teresa wanted to spread her wings and grow even more.

This opportunity for artistic growth was presented to her only a year after completion of her degree, when Musoke received a Commonwealth scholarship to do printing in Britain. She was able to gather more experience and also network with new art communities on an international level. It was there that she earned a postgraduate diploma in printing from the royal college of art in London. This experience was also to later spread a bigger buzz about her in the arts world.

Musoke has been living in Kenya for the last twenty odd years. Most of her distinguishing works portray wildlife or the world of the Massai, which have rewarded her with worldwide recognition. Her subjects are supplementary and it is more her interpretation of the themes that creates her style. Her technique is unique consisting of a mixture of batik and oil painting. She also excels in wood-cuts reduced to black and white that dominate the energy and rhythm of her compositions.

She has taught art at Makerere University, Kenyatta University College, the International School of Kenya, and the Kestrel Manor School. From her work as a teacher, she has been able to share supplementary stimulation and energy with her eager students. This has also helped her to devote time to her most festive and loved passion-painting, while sharing this love for the art of painting with others. She is a prolific artist, always evolving with new ideas for her mixed media compositions.

Throughout the years, she found herself becoming one of the most recognized and influential semi-abstract painters in Uganda at a time when there were few women artists. She pursued her craft relentlessly and meticulously; in the process winning numerous awards. Teresa Musoke is undoubtedly one of East Africa's most exceptional female painters. Her art can be seen in many places in Uganda and Kenya, sometimes as large murals and buildings decorations. She is and will continue to be valued for her well-designed, cultural and innovative contributions to the world of fine art. She is an excellent role model for many young, African women.


  • Royal Academy of Art-London, England
  • The Hampton institute-Virginia, USA Uganda Museum-Kampala, Uganda
  • Paa ya Paa Gallery-Kenya
  • Watatu Galleries-Nairobi Kenya
  • Gallery of Contemporary East African Art-Nairobi, Kenya
  • Botanic Museum-Brussels, Belgium
  • Africus-Johannesburg-Biennale-Republic of South Africa
  • For more information about Teresa Musoke please go to this site

    By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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    First published: December 19, 2005
    Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada.

    Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named ‘one of the new voices of Africa’ after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.

    She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. Please visit her website at