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Kofi Kayiga


Kofi Kayiga is artistically represented in No Colour Bar in several ways. His work was used to illustrate Phyllis and Bernard Coard’s book Getting to Know Ourselves, as well as featuring on Bogle-L’Ouverture’s selection of greetings cards. Individual works by him, oil on canvas and Masonite, were also in the exhibition. Formerly known as Ricardo Wilkins, he was born in Jamaica in 1943 to Jamaican and Cuban parents and has lived and worked in Britain, America and Uganda. He studied at the Jamaican School of Art before winning a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in 1971.


His works veer between abstraction and figuration, using strong undiluted colours and geometric configurations that sometimes form anthropomorphic shapes or figures. Kayiga himself has noted: “My work is seemingly random but images form themselves and are recognised from a deeper seemingly unconscious place and out of that I find direction...I consider it an unconscious intelligence, not an intellectual intelligence. And it’s uncanny that a lot of African work comes out of this place. For me this is more authentic and that’s how I paint.”

Kayiga’s use of bold colour, unclear forms and repeated symbolic motifs attempts to connect with universal and eternal ideals. His paintings express a sense of spirituality and their ambiguity suggests an engagement with mystic and cosmic subject matter, devoid of context or time. The paintings Ras King and Ras Queen (1982) depict totem figures of Rastafarianism, using the emblematic red, green and gold. These painting become icons of Afro-Caribbean heritage and religion, direct in a conception that creates an archetypal and transmutable visual language echoing the African diaspora.

Kayiga’s has exhibited in solo shows including at the Multitudes Gallery, Miami (2013), Riverside Gallery, Trinidad (2000), and Museum of National Centre of African American Artists, Boston (1981). His work has also featured in countless group shows, among them Back to Black, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2005), Black as a Colour: Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary, National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston (1998), and Black Art Ancestral Legacy, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas (1989–1990).  Kayiga has since been exhibited in Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (2016), and Transformed, Scollay Square Gallery, Boston (2016). In addition he has taught Fine Art at numerous international institutes since 1966.


Kofi Kayiga (b. 1944)

Ras King, 1982

Ras Queen, 1982

Using the symbolic red, green and gold of Rastafari, this pair of paintings celebrates the continuity of African royal heritage that is widely embraced throughout the African Diaspora.  Oil on canvas

On loan from the artist

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