Kenneth Otelu

Kenneth Otelu


Otelu Kenneth work is poetry in visual form, they are figurative, very precisely formulated works and a play with the surrealistic.

He studied at Makerere University (one of the largest universities in Africa) until 2010. Very important for him is the concept of freedom, which he explores through painting. In his exploration of religion and the images it means to us humans.

Painful memories of a dominant church that banned traditional body painting in his culture, painfully captivating him in his childhood and youth. And then again freedom in a concept of bonding that is self-formulated and produces beauty.

On the language of the skin: due to the urbanization that can also be observed on the African continent, the emergence of huge slum belts around large cities such as Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Lagos or Johannesburg, the natural conditions for the emergence of drawings on the skin with a social, religious-mythical background are disappearing. Population growth, impoverishment and rural exodus are also leading to the destruction of traditions, some of which are centuries old. The destruction of family ties, the tearing apart of the social fabric of village communities and the increasingly naked struggle for survival are on the black continent as much a consequence of materialization as of the globalization of everyday life.

Otelu’s comments about his works:
Who am I? Why is everything else more beautiful than mine? Why am I like this? What does the mirror say? Oh you ugly thing! What does the TV say? Taylor Swift is gorgeous, I need some of that cream perhaps. Free they said I am. Free was all I ever longed for. But then what is free?
Let’s pray – oil on canvas
A painting that taps in my painful primary memories in Catholic school performing the way of the cross pray and little me by then struggling to look for anything to reduce the pain being inflicted on my knees while we rotated and knelt before all the images of Christ.
Progressing with the work: Crowns, crosses, curses and the birds cheering me on in the background was just amazing.
Freedom is bondage
You are only free if your bond to a concept you formulated ropes anyone.
Freedom as a state of mind a continuation of my self study into the debate into the concept of Freedom.

Kenneth Otelu (*1985) in Amuria, North Eastern Region of Uganda.
Otelu is a passionate painter with a keen eye of beauty. He captures and preserves the beauty, culture and traditions of the Ugandan heritage. Although his signature style is the sedamless blend of cubism and African figurative painting on abstract backgrounds. He also does fantastic realism, of which he pays meticulous attention to detail in his works, which give live and depth to is impressions. His main medium of choice are oil, pastels and markers on canvas and paper.

His paintings tap in his painful primary memories in Catholic School performing the way of the cross pray: «…and little me by then struggling to look for anything to reduce the pain being inflicted on my knees while we rotated an knelt before all the images of Christ.»

The fine lines on the painted bodies refer to the tribal rites of painting oneself to please the ghosts. Otelu still had his father in these ornaments, which were completely suppressed by the Colonial Christianization.

Otelu's figurative painting is freed from obsessiveness and orthodox doctrine of salvation, pointing back to his own tribal spirituality full of hope and energy.

At Fondation WhiteSpaceBlackBox Kenneth Otelu has his first European exhibition.


Showing the single artwork