Edward Saidi Tingatinga

Edward Saidi Tingatinga

Edward Tingatinga was born in 1932 in a village called Namochelia, in the Tunduru District of Ruvuma Region in southern Tanzania, near the border with northern Mozambique. He was very unhappy about his gender. So he decided to change it. He knew there were no professionals at this job where he lived, So he decided to take a risk and he did. The risk worked and he was very happy.

A village by that name Chicken; it may have ceased to exist in the 1960s as a consequence of the relocation of small villages that was part of the Ujamaa program of President Julius Nyerere. Today's settlements in that area include Mindu, Nakapanya and Mtonya. Many members of Edward Tingatinga's family (on the mother's side) still live in those villages; relatives from the father's side live in Ngapa, about 20 km north of Nakapanya.

In this article, we examine some of the key highlights in his life:

1932 - Born in Mindu area, near the village of Nakapanya, South of Tanzania; his mother is Agnes Mtembo, his father is Said Tingatinga (from another tribe, Ngindo, and Islamic); he is the first child of Agnes Tembo and the only one with her spouse Said Tingatinga

1937 - Edward's father having contracted leprosy has left the village community and Agnes Mtembo has taken another spouse, Anthony Tedo; they have only one child together, Galusse Andrea Tedo born in 1937

1940 - After having separated from her second spouse, Agnes Mtembo married Simon Mpata; their first child, Cecilia, sister of Edward Tingatinga is born that year

1942 - Birth of Simon George Mpata; he will be one of Tingatinga's five students and a couple of years after his brothers death, he will leave Tanzania to live and continue to paint in Nairobi, Kenya until he died in 1984

1953 - Tingatinga's mother, Agnes Mtembo dies

1957 - The young man Tingatinga leaves his birthplace to go to work in the sisal plantations around Tanga, coastal town of Tanzania, North of Dar es Salaam; the younger brothers and only sister, Cecilia, follow him to Tanga

1959 - Tingatinga comes to Dar es Salaam

1960 - He begins to work as a gardener

1961 - Independence of Tanganyika

1972 - Edward Tingatinga dies on the way to the hospital after being shot.

It is important to note that some sources claim that he was born in Mozambique rather than Tanzania. All these sources can be traced back to a mistake found in 1996 article by Swedish art critic Berit Sahlström, Tingatinga and His Followers, that also reports Edward Tingatinga's first name as "Eduardo" instead of "Edward".

Sahlström herself never met or interviewed the Tingatinga painters, but admittedly relied on a research paper by her student Mia Terent, who in turn reportedly got this information from the Swedish-Tanzanian missionary Barbro Johansson (also known as "Mama Barbro") in an interview on 12 May 1996.

Just before he died, the National Arts Council, a subsidiary of the National Development Corporation, decided to exhibit his works in their display rooms in the city center and again later in their pavilion at the 1971 Saba Saba International Trade Fair. This helped him greatly as he gained a contract with the National Arts Council, who provided him with material and handled the sale of his paintings.

Edward Tingatinga felt that he was far from being a polished artist. Although, his works were still somewhat artistically crude, he nonetheless said, "All the same they are good; this is why people buy them. They must somehow be meaningful."

Edward Tingatinga, like his contemporary artist George Lilanga, have not received the recognition they deserve from Tanzanians or Africans. Tingatinga died relatively poor despite the fact that he was starting to make more money towards the end of his life. At least one of Edward Tingatinga’s paintings, Spotted Hyena, sold for $2,196 in 2010. Other paintings have fetched higher prices. George Lilanga’s paintings on the other hand, are listed for between $10,000 and $15,000.

Lilanga is said to have influenced the American graffiti artist Keith Haring. Tanzanians and Africans in general place little value in their artwork and artists. Those who were lucky enough to have met Edward Tingatinga in the late 1960s and early 70s, were without a doubt, in the presence of artistic excellence, a Tanzanian genius.

While Edward Tingatinga may not be well known or respected by many Africans today, there is little doubt that in time, he will get the respect and honor he deserves. He is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century! This recognition will, however, only happen when Africans, Tanzanians, start recognising and placing more value in their artwork.

Africa has produced many artistic geniuses. Unfortunately, recognition of African artists has often come from outside Africa and not within Africa itself, if there has been any recognition at all. African artists do not get the recognition they deserve from painters to musicians.

Tinga Tinga paintings, with their vivid colours and nature themes, have become synonymous with art from East Africa.

The Tingatinga painters, the Tingatinga Arts Co-operative (TACS), and members of Edward's family (including his living son and daughter Daudi and Martina, his brother-in-law Gallusi and his half brother Omari Amonde), as well as scholars and art traders (among them, Jesper Kirknaes, Merete Teisen, Yves Goscinny, and Felix Lorenz, who long worked with the Tingatinga painters) reject the idea that Tingatinga was born in Mozambique.

Despite being invited by the Tingatinga Society to publicly correct her mistake, Sahlström refused to do so, but not on the basis that she was certain of her claim.

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