Talent, passion for art saved Kisitu from the unemployment syndrome

John Kisitu stands in admiration of his art pieces inside his workshop PHOTO BY ALEX TAREMWA

Kisitu in his workshop in Mbarara. TTM Files/2012


Through his early childhood ,  John Kisitu, 26, used clay to mold different sculptures as his imagination would serve. It wasn’t until secondary  that he actually realised how good he was at Fine Art often from complements of his classmates and teachers.

“I always got into school competitions and different exhibitions that gave me a true picture of what talent and art are and how I could exploit them,” he said.

Upon completion of secondary school, Kisitu had to convince his parents beyond reasonable doubt that Fine Art was what he wanted to pursue at university against their own perception that he should do a Bachelors in Business Administration. After several attempts to change his mind hit a snag, he was allowed to do  Industrial Fine Art and Design at Kyambogo University where he majored in Fabric Decorations.

While at University, Kisitu started an arts workshop in Kampala around Kyambogo while working with Artmax; a Designing and Graphics company before moving to Mbarara in early 2012 to start his own K-Arts Uganda. Here, he does T-shirt painting, printing and customization, portraits, sculptures, craft graphics, computer graphics, posters and wall branding and car branding.

How he does it


There are two methods of designing a T-shirt, the first is painting where a mere brush is dipped in fabric paint and artistically moved across the surface of a shirt which often is laid on a board to produce a pictures of an object and printing which involves the conception of a design, cutting of a stencil to have the design printed on a T-shirt using a screen and iron-on methods.

Kisitu also offers options for customization where one who intends to have their own designs, logos or any other items can have them either printed or painted on a T-shirt at a designated price which normally ranges between Shs15, 000 to 250,000 respectively.


“This business funds my side projects in the village and I have managed to keep them in check and enlarge them with the money I get from the arts I do.  I have also bought 2 computers for my graphic work and employed to two  fellows with whom I work.” 

From this business, Kisitu earns an average monthly Shs1.5m. But in seasons when business is really flocking good, say when schools contract him to do T-shirts and uniform branding for them, he bags normally up to Shs2million a month.

Like any business, Kisitu decries  a merciless load-shedding that causes a redundancy in his work. Other challenges are mostly seasonal due recessions in other businesses. Price fluctuations affect materials  that are important to the survival of his business in addition to failure to get good quality plain T-shirts to use.

“Normally I get my T-shirts from Kampala but at times they are out of stock because also my suppliers get them from Kenya so I have to use substandard ones that affect my output,” he told TTM.

Having started this arts business while I was still at university, Kisitu journey into self-employment  and has never turned back. He however acknowledges that if a company approaches him and can meet his demands, he would consider joining them. He advises graduates to make use of their skills to better their livelihoods.

He singled out Steve Jobs as his inspiration and key motivation. The fallen Apple Founder and CEO always insisted that everyone should find within them what they love most and pursue it with reckless abandon.

Kisitu  argued that this philosophy has never let him down  because everything he does in art doesn’t require compulsion but ease and creativity.

“Unfortunately I was never able to go the streets to look for jobs but at least I know it could be spiritually draining and challenging. I therefore call upon all graduates who have the chance to start  businesses to start them and from there, we can secure more of what we want.”

Future plans:

Kisitu operates with the nortion that art can tell in visual what a book can tell in several paragraphs. He intends to make a bigger Arts show room where different artists can converge to exhibit and sell their work.

“ Also, I train a few students art basics  and that may compel to maybe have an Arts School training all lovers of art how they can produce beautiful, well thought and creative art pieces that can compete. I personally have competed in Arts competitions across the region because of art so I hope to share this with others,” he said.

Besides art, John can also play several musical instruments like the trumpet and the piano. Adventure, Music and writing form some of the activities that he loves to do whenever he has time at his disposal.


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