In Memoriam, Rafiki Kariuki (1951 – 2020)


Rafiki Kariuki - Tangle - NG031

Rafiki Kariuki – Tangle (featured in the 2019 NGJ Summer Exhibition)

In recognition of the passing of Rafiki Kariuki on January 14, 2020, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) would like to reflect on Kariuki as a celebrated visual artist and humanist.

Rafiki Kariuki was born in 1951, in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended the Jamaica School of Art (now: Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) where he obtained a Diploma in Painting, 1980. Kariuki has been a regular exhibitor, particularly in the Annual National and Biennial exhibitions at the National Gallery of Jamaica (2017). He was also a participant in the recently held 2019 NGJ Summer Exhibition, in which he exhibited two mixed media works including Tangle. In 2004, he exhibited at the Jamaica National Biennial. He has also exhibited in the USA. In 1994, Kariuki was awarded a silver medal in the Jamaica Festival Fine Art Exhibition, organized by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. He also received several merits in the category of Photography. 

Kariuki can easily be described as an activist and liberator. He used his artworks as an avenue to raise awareness and generate discourse on the struggle of apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s. During his lifetime as a visual artist, Kariuki not only incorporated a political rhetoric in some of his pieces, but he also used aesthetics to comment on the relationship between human beings and spirituality. 

He has made a mark in the visual arts community and his works remain an important point of reference in raising awareness around issues of black struggle. The Board of Directors and the Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Rafiki Kariuki.



Archer, Petrina. “Rafiki Kariuki.” Art  History, News and Reviews. n.d.

Jamaica Biennial. Catalogue. National Gallery of Jamaica. February 24 – May 28, 2017.

Summer Exhibition. Catalogue. Nation Gallery of Jamaica. 2019. 

One thought on “In Memoriam, Rafiki Kariuki (1951 – 2020)

  1. In my experience, he was an even tempered, attentive and always approachable person, devoid of ‘airs’ and not egotistic, even in my early years when he was my senior. In terms of Black/African Nationalism he was a trailblazer locally, along with Kofi Kayiga, related to the first steps in the rites/rights of passage towards the decolonization of the Black mind, which was, committing to a legal change of name from the slave brand to a more meaningful African name. This was an inspiration for myself and others. A brilliant creator and practitioner who never waivered from his vision despite the buffeting winds of fashion. Live on! Bayethe! Makkkahoe!

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