Ugandan contemporary painter Ismael Kateregga, who is celebrating 18 years of art with a month-long exhibition, has established himself with his distinctive impressionist style that he uses to depict daily life activities in Uganda.
Kateregga’s oeuvre spanning his 18 year career is on display at the show titled “Art 18” on Plot 23 Ismail Road, Mbuya Hill in Kampala. At the exhibition that opened on November 11, and closing on December 12, 2023, are 30 of his skilfully rendered paintings.
Although his style renders less detail, his strength lies in forms, controlled light and perspective. He explores the daily activities and social challenges and issues affecting society such as poor urban development, colonialism, racism, and human rights, among others.
“I am celebrating 18 years as a painter to look back to where I started, through the yeas up to where I am now and make a self-evaluation of my artistic development. Eighteen being the age of consent means I have gone through a metamorphosis to get here, which I think is worth celebrating,” Kateregga said.
“It has been a journey of experimentation and self-searching one that involves switching from the prison of academic rules to a free world of expression to find my niche. My style is impressionistic. This is where images in a painting seem blurred at close distance but become more distinct at a longer distance.”
Bathers at Entebbe depicts images of people swimming in Lake Victoria as another way to show that the water body provides life and enjoyment.
Fishing Boats and Kiyindi Fishing Village captures the daily business activities at fishing landing sites. They highlight the lake as a source of livelihood that should be preserved.
City Traffic shows several boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and vehicles at the traffic lights. This piece looks at the impact of the boda-bodas on the congested traffic flow in Kampala.
City Dwellers depicts the impact of rural urban migration leading to creation of slums in urban centres.
“Kalerwe Market” shows market vendors and their customers conducting business. It looks at the world as a market where we all depend on each other for a living.
“Rescue Workers” looks at the unregulated construction industry and the impact of poor construction methods that result in the collapse of buildings.
“The Coming of the Iron Snake” shows a train sneaking through a crowded urban settlement. He says this is a theory that demeans the construction of the Uganda Railway as a means for the colonialists to exploit Africa.
“Vacine a la Liberte” shows people demonstrators carrying French flags and placards with words such as “Liberons La France,” and “Vacine a la Liberte.” Kateregga says this artwork and the looks at the conspiracies around Covid-19, and how politicians used it to encroach on people’s basic freedoms and rights.
“Evacuation from Kabul” and “Waiting at Kabul Airport” represent a point in time when the USA withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, and the chaos that ensued and the impact it had on the country; politically, economically and socially.
Asked why he loves art, Kateregga responded: “Loving art is like loving myself because doing it is pleasurable and it also brings out the best in me.”
As to why he has specialized in painting, he said: “I have specialized in painting because I think the language of colour is diverse because different colours speak differently. I find joy in combining colours to communicate and I think this is the art discipline I am compatible with.”
When asked why he is interested in people’s daily activities, Kateregga replied: “People’s daily life involves a lot of activity, interaction, interdependence in the struggle to earn a living. From a personal experience, this is the life I go through so in a way it represents me, identifies me and my immediate surroundings.”
Regarding the current state of the art industry in Uganda, he observes: “The art industry in Uganda is like an untapped resource. There’s a lot of good talent that hasn’t blown up because there isn’t enough exposure.”
What would you have been if you were not into the art industry? “If I was not an artist I would be a musician. I feel music is the other profession that is food to the soul and for some reason I find myself singing as I paint.”
He says he loves listening to soul music in his free time. And he unwinds after a hard day’s work by watching television for current affairs.
Kateregga was born 1980 and raised in Kampala. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Fine Art (BIFA-Hons) from the Margaret Trowell School of Art, Makerere University in Kampala in 2005.
His work has been exhibited in several solo and joint exhibitions in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and London (UK). His works have been auctioned in Uganda, London (UK), Madrid (Spain), and New York (USA).
Kateregga’s work is widely collected, and his paintings are held in Austria, Brazil, Germany, Italy, India, Netherlands, Norway, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and the USA.