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Kakinda‘s Abstracted Human Figure

The artist draws inspiration from cave and Egyptian art that used the human figure as a symbol of spiritual, social and cultural expressions

The human figure is a dominant symbol in Fred Kakinda’s paintings. It will usually take on different forms and meaning; depending on the subject the artist is interrogating.

Frequently, it is abstracted and contextualized in an African setting evident with the gourds, calabashes and highly decorative patterns that remind the viewer of cave art. Indeed, the artist draws inspiration from African cave art practices or sometimes Egyptian ethnographic symbols. This gives his paints both rich stylistic appeal and artistic depth of colour and form. His palette is dominated by earthy colours that connote the idea of a rural setting. His forms are of slender necked women, broad shouldered men and nubile women adorning piercing round breasts like succulent oranges.

In Engagement (Undated), Kakinda paints a typical engagement ceremony which precedes marriage in many African settings. It is a colourful event that requires the bride to dress in beautiful attire in order to attract the attention of the groom. In the painting, the artist paints four semi abstracted human figures with the bride wearing an elaborate head dress and her right hand touching the shoulder of the groom right by her side. Her tender sweet smile reveals contentment and pride like is expected when a woman finds the man of her dreams. The other figures in the painting represent family or friends. In Buganda where the artist originates, parents are obliged by custom to give away their daughter during the festivity. Similarly, during the same occasion the man’s side presents gifts to the girl’s family as a form of gratitude for the proper raising of the bride to be. The artist therefore abstracts the hands of the figures on the right giving an impression that they are receiving or giving away gifts to the girl’s family.

In another painting (Untitled, Undated) two abstracted human figures are depicted looking at a book. The activity can be described as studying given the facial expression on the abstracted figurines’ faces.

The expression is of immense eagerness and curiosity, familiar to that of students who are venturing for academic success. The simple composition of the paintingfar less complex with absence of ethnographic imagery and motifs that pervade some of his work-acquires its elevated identity because of the clever use of palette. The artist chooses blue, yellow and red to communicate the message of vibrant possibilities that come from academic pursuits.

The figures in the painting engaged in the activity of studying are a representation of students who invest their time to read in order to excel in life. This particular theme of studying is of personal interest to the artist who incidentally also doubles as a lecture at the school of Industrial and Fine Art, Makerere.

Painting of the human anatomy is a reflection of unrivaled success for many artists. Its combination of many forms represented by different bodily parts makes it complex to artistically explore and articulate.When an artist prevails such complex representation, they have therefore achieved studio prowess. Kakinda’s paintings represent such triumph and because the artist extends his deftness to abstraction of the human figure, he is obviously seeking deeper conversations with his audience. The artist’s themes are often drawn from his immediate surroundings and personal experiences, however punctuated with research overtones.

In the early 2000s, Kakinda produced an extensive body of work on the subject of Art and Therapy. Here he used his art to communicate to different groups of people including Aids and mentally depressed patients at both Mulago and Butabika Hospitals respectively. This approach gave his work enormous credibility for both academic scholarship and the average person. For the artist, both audiences seemed to have a mutual relationship in art.

The abstraction of his figures here metaphorically seemed to insinuate his discomfort in creating perimeters between these two types of viewers. Afterall as an individual, the artist is scornful of such societal stereotypes.


Fred Kizito Kakinda lecturer in the Department of Visual Communication, Design and Multimedia, at Margret Trowel School of industrial and Fine art recently passed on after a longillness.

Image courtesy of the web

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