The TingaTinga African Arts Cooperative Society

The TingaTinga African Arts Cooperative Society

According to Shiraishi and Yamamoto (1992), Gosciny (2001), Nahimiani (2008), Thorup and Sam (2010), the Tingatinga Art of Tanzania emerged in the late 1960s following the invention of paintings made of bright colours on square Masonite boards by Edward Saidi Tingatinga, who is simply acknowledged as Tingatinga. This painting genre was named after its founder. Since the 1970s, Tingatinga African art has been produced by several other artists apprenticed by Edward Tingatinga himself. Gosciny (2004) argues that by 1970, Tingatinga had begun to train his first five students, namely, Mpata, Tedo, Ajaba, Linda, and Adeusi. This first generation of Tingatinga students trained a second generation of painters and soon the tight grip of Tingatinga’s closed circle opened up (Fig.162). When Edward Saidi Tingatinga died in a fatal shooting accident in 1972, his group of about 20 painters was considered to be a school by some Western writers such as Hatz (1996) and Schaedler (1998). In an attempt to save the business contract which, it had signed with Edward Saidi Tingatinga in 1971, the National Art of Tanzania (NAT) or HANDICO helped Tingatinga apprentices and family members form and register the Tingatinga Art Co-operative Society (TACS) between 1973 and 1974. TACS still administers Tingatinga arts business at its Msasani-Morogoro store’s premises in Dar es Salaam.

The early Tingatinga paintings depicted monochromatic backgrounds behind boldly-painted lone wild animals, particularly lions, hippos, elephants and buffalos. A closer look at the paintings reveals naïve qualities of the artist in organising the form and content of his composition, hence producing an unsophisticated impression in all his artworks (Fig.161). The general atypical stylistic characteristics of Tingatinga art is its commodified quality that has won it the reputation as the most popular tourist art in East Africa. Despite having a very small base of local audience and buyers, Tingatinga art has won a remarkable foreign art lovers support from all over the world (Jengo 1985). Since the 1970s when it spread, its reception as a ‘contemporary’ visual art genre in Tanzania is still ambivalent among local scholars as seen in the following extract:

The Tingatinga group of artists founded by the late Edward Tingatinga in the early 1970s enjoyed the popularity among oversees art buyers. The naivety of their painting style, bright colours and symbolism were seen as representing the style of art from ‘a dying culture’. As might be expected, HANDICO promoted Tingatinga art commercially until it flooded the art market in the late 1970s (Jengo 1985:123).


The Tingatinga art genre had very little to do with the Ujamaa arts in its conceptual sense, but in its later modes of productions and marketing aspects. It emerged as a hobby, and quickly expanded into a family enterprise catering for wide tourist art markets in the entire East African region. A few years after its invention, Tingatinga art became a Western art collectors’ yardstick and obsession in their quest to find an authentic art from Tanzania.

Some writers still believe that only artists without Western art educational influence could produce ‘authentic’ art in Tanzania. Local art educators and scholars such as Wembah-Rashid (1979) and Jengo (1985) are reluctant to categorise Tingatinga paintings as ‘folk art’ and more of craftwork apart from the mainstream visual arts, which are normally appreciated as products of unique genius refined through formal training or apprenticeship.

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Today, Tingatinga African paintings are sold on our website and exported globally all over the world. 


Part of this blogpost was taken from a wonderful disseration by Dominicus Makukula. We are grateful to the authors contribution to the Tingatinga school of African painting.

Size Guide

Centimeters (CM)

Inches (IN)

50CM x 40CM

19 11/16 in X 15 3/4 in

50CM x 50CM

19 11/16 in X 19 11/16 in

60CM x 60CM

23 5/8 in X 23 5/8 in

70CM x 50CM

27 9/16 in X 19 11/16 in

80CM x 60CM

31 1/2 in X 23 5/8 in

100CM x 80CM

39 3/8 in X 31 1/2 in

140CM x 110CM

55 1/8 in X 43 5/16 in