Ugandan artist Isaac Karimwabo gets inspired by global challenges to draw his portraits. He mostly focuses on child portraiture as a way of countering a fast-paced, capitalistic and exploitative world where people resort to destructive coping mechanisms.
“I believe this generation can be happier if they are free, content, worry less and have a childlike attitude,” said Kwamboka who is a self-taught artist.
There is an angelic quality to Karimwabo’s portraits and the way the light shines on their faces as though coming from heaven. The subjects are often surrounded by dark backgrounds, which minimises distractions, and he has a talent for capturing emotions.
In the painting titled Next Generation, a child dressed in a hoodie, surrounded by a murky background looks up pensively. In one of his few adult portraits, a woman clothed in bold coloured fabrics stands in a dark place, facing the light, perhaps from an open door. She clutches her chest with one hand and there is an air of apprehension emanating from the image.
Karimwabo paints using photographs yet there is a naturalness to the poses of the children and an emotional connection that comes through his works.
In Places of Redemption, a boy in side profile has his fingers interlocked and has a furrowed face, which suggests hurt and uneasiness. Karimwabo created this picture as an exploration of the child soldiers who survived Uganda’s 20-year civil war. The boy’s smooth skin texture and the use of soft light enhances his innocence. This is in contrast to the grave subject being explored.
In a happier illustration, two children look out of the window of a wooden house. They are looking directly at the viewer and one of them is smiling broadly, which gives a sense that all is well with the world.
Karimwabo’s art can often be seen at Njovu, Umoja and Asante Art Galleries in Kampala. They can also be found in Bonzo Gallery and at the Village Market in Nairobi.