Ugandan Artists: Meet Samuel Kakaire
Samuel Kakaire.

Ugandan Artists: Meet Samuel Kakaire

He is the only Ugandan visual who has married ancient Russian-Byzantine culture with Ugandan culture.

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: June 14, 2006

Having been born in Russia, it was only natural that I would be fascinated by this artist and his unique style. He is definitely one of the most diverse multicultural Ugandan visual artists alive. He is the only Ugandan visual artist who has married ancient Russian-Byzantine culture with Ugandan culture. He acclimatizes the Russian visual language to his local Ugandan milieu- the themes are idiosyncratically Ugandan and the style parallel to Russian iconography, an amalgamation which is distinctive of this particular artist. His art is breathtakingly beautiful, colourfully fascinating and phenomenally unique to say the least.

Samuel Kakaire was born 1961 Namalemba, Bugweri, Iganga District-Uganda. Later on in his life Kakaire went to St.Petersburg, Russia, to study the technique of the oldest painting tradition in Eastern Europe: Byzantine wall painting. He graduated in 1989 from the Higher College of Fine and Industrial Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia, with a Master of Fine Arts degree, with emphasis on mural painting.

Art By Samuel Kakaire
Art By Samuel Kakaire.

With that valuable skill under his belt, Kakaire was able to carry an ancient art with him back to Uganda and Africanise it. Kakaire paints in tempera, oils, and water colors. Following the tradition of iconographic miniatures and large-scale works, Kakaire uses a traditional palette of colors based on ochre, caput mortuum, black, white, and blue.

His reputation as one of the best Ugandan artists has followed him around the world and his curriculum vitae is one of the most distinguished among Ugandan visual artists. He has extensively exhibited in Europe and throughout Africa. He regularly exhibits in East Africa as well as internationally; he participated in the "Uganda Week in Paris" in France representing Ugandan artists, he also had his work shown and acclaimed at the distinguished Palais Weimar in Heidelberg, Germany and he currently has his work at the Alliance Franšaise in Kampala, Uganda.

When I caught up with him, he was away deep in the countryside making studies of the rural folks and also sketching landscapes but he took time out of his busy schedule to take part in the interview. We caught up on our Russian, swapped stories and he blew me away with his new visual arts collection which has been included in this interview.

Jane: At what age did you know that you would be an artist?

Samuel: At around the age of 8.

And your parents... were your parents supportive of your decision to follow your dream?

My mum was supportive although my dad wanted me to pursue the medical profession, but he also later encouraged me to follow the arts once he saw that I was good at it and serious about it.

What medium do you use?

I use quite a variety of mediums, mainly egg tempera on gesso for the icons, oil on canvas, frescos, mosaics, stained glass, batiks on silk and graphics.

What inspires you artistically? What are your major themes?

Art By Samuel Kakaire
Art By Samuel Kakaire.

My inspirations are derived mostly from the everyday cores of the rural folks thus also my major artistic themes.

Your usage of Russian iconography is amazing. How did studying in Russia influence your art?

My studying in Russia had a big impact in terms of my expression artistically, especially on the iconographic methodology but most of all the encouragement from my professor Oleg Ivanovich Kuznetsov, to take on the painting of icons since none in my class was interested in the type of ancient paintng skill, and thats what exactly I did.

What was your impression of the Russian art scene?

The Russian art scene? I can just sum it up in one word SPLENDID.

You went to Namasagali College. How did studying there affect you as an artist?

My studying at Namasagali College contributed a lot to my pursuing of my art profession, especially after Father Grimes my headmaster showed us a painting of The Madonna with one side of the face smiling and the other sad. This was really amazing, as well as the Byzantine art too. At present I have an exhibition"Africa in Byzantine Style" at Alliance Franšaise, Kampala.

For a long time there was a negative stigma that surrounded visual artists. People thought that artists were vagabonds but Uganda has a large number of artists. Do you think that this stigma has been removed? Do you feel like artists are finally getting respect?

Yes definitely artists are finally getting respect. Things have changed greatly from those days. It used to be like that in the past, but artists have shown that they too have something valuable to contribute to the Ugandan society. Every society needs its artists. They are a reflection of the society.

What are your challenges in pursuing your passion as an artist?

Karamajong By Samuel Kakaire
Karamajong By Samuel Kakaire.

The challenges are quite many, such as getting the rural and the bigger part of the population to appreciate modern art. My passion is to teach as many youths and kids to appreciate and do art.

How has the reception of your art been in Uganda?

Its been great but it there is room for improvement.

What about on the international scene?

On the international scene I have exhibited in quite a number of countries but there is still a lot to do, as far as more exposure and selling of art is concerned.

Do you think the Ugandan government does enough to support the arts? How could they improve?

No it does not... if any thing, very little. They need to open up an Art Fund to support artists and create a department in the ministry concerned purely to deal with art.

What are your current projects?

Currently some friends of mine, Dr Maria Kizito and Ritah Edopu and I are trying to see that we open up a gallery and studio for residential artist, and we are presently soliciting for funding.

What is next for you?

Apart from what I have just mentioned, I am also making a collection of some of the fine art works by both prominent and amateur artists, because most of the good works are bought and are "lost." By that I mean its mostly foreign people buying them and so we are not storing our art. In fact government should come in here to make a national collection of art which is strictly Ugandan and everyone can go and see it.

Lady with Kob By Samuel Kakaire
Lady with Kob By Samuel Kakaire.

Do you have any words of advice to any young people who may want to follow your path?

My advice to young artists is to be resilient, patient and hard working in order to achieve there goal.

Where can people who want to buy or see your art find it?

People who want to buy my art can find it in The SANKA RANKA GALLERY, which opened in April in New York, Hartsdale, NY 10530. Also in Zurich at the Artefiz Gallery, Forchstrasse 317, CH 8008 and also in Kampala at Alliance Franšaise, National Theatre Building.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

I want to leave a legacy of being one of the respected and famous artists on the African continent and the world.

I think as far as Uganda you have already done that. As far as the rest of the world its only a matter of time.

Thank you.

To contact Samuel Kakaire you can email him at

Traditional Fishery By Samuel Kakaire
Traditional Fishery By Samuel Kakaire.

Copenhagen Denmark Inter-University joint exhibition
Leningrad (St Petersburg) Russia Inter-University joint exhibition
Kampala Uganda Uganda Artists Association joint Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Uganda Artists Association joint Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Uganda Artists Association joint Exhibition
Nairobi Kenya Africa Panorama Art Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Uganda Artists Association joint Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Nommo Gallery General joint Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Pan African Congress joint Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Nommo Gallery, one man Exhibition
Kampala Uganda Landscape Joint Exhibition
Nairobi Kenya Group Exhibition, Gallery of East African Contemporary Art,
Kenya National Museums
Johannesburg South Africa Participation, Africus Johannesburg Biennale
Eyguiere/Marseille France Joint exhibition, Liza's Art school
Johannesburg South Africa Joint exhibition, Art-Space Gallery
Umtata South Africa Group exhibition, 10 Ugandan Artists, Banani Festaac, Unitra Festival of African Arts and Culture
Kampala Uganda Auction UNICEF Country Office in Uganda
Aschaffenburg Germany Group exhibition "Zeitgenssiche Kunst aus Uganda" Gallerie Kunsthaus am Schloss, Schloss Weiberhfen
Bonn Germany Group exhibition "Zeitgenssiche Kunst aus Uganda" Thringer Landesvertretung
Bad Honnef Germany Group exhibition "Zeitgenssiche Kunst aus Uganda" Deutsche Stiftung fr Etwicklung DSE
Eschborn Germany Group Exhibition Gesellschaft fr technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Zeitgenssische Kunst aus Afrika
Brussels Belgium "The blossoming Pearl of African Art" (Opening by The President of the Republic of Uganda H.E. Y. K.Museveni and H.E. J. de Deus Pinheiro Member of the European Commission)
Brussels Belgium Group exhibition "The Blossoming Pearl of African Art" Gallerie les Alizs
Erfurt Germany Group exhibition "Eine andere Sonne" Michaelis Kirche
Heidelberg Germany Group Exhibition "Zeitgenssichekunst aus Afrika II"

Von Portheim Foundation, Vlkerkundemuseum.

Neuchtel Switzerland Group Exhibition "Art contemporain d'Afrique" Muse d'Histoire

Naturelle, Neuchtel

Kampala Uganda Group Exhib. Tulifanya Gallery
Bussigny-Lausanne Switzerland Atelier-Galerie St. Germain
Kampala Uganda Solo Exhib. Alliance Franšaise-Gallery
Paris France Uganda Week, Alliance Franšaise in Paris
Kampala Uganda "Sam is back" Gallery Cafe
Witzenhausen Germany Group Exhib. Rathaus Witzenhausen
Studen Biel Switzerland Group Exhib. Gallery Kentaro
Studen - Biel Switzerland Solo Exhib.Gallery Kentaro "Afrika in byzantinischem Stil" Icons
1972 Mwiri Uganda Primary school
1974 Narambhai Uganda Primary school
Masaka Uganda Kako Primary school
1981 Kamuli Uganda Namasagali College
1989 Leningrad(St Petersburg) Russia Higher College of Industrial Art (Mural Painting)
M.F.A. Masters degree in Fine Art (Mural Painting)

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: June 14, 2006
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