Facts about Tinga Tinga Art

Facts about Tinga Tinga Art


July 15, 2018

- Tanzania's most well-known style of painting was begun in the 1960s by Edward Saidi Tingatinga, after whom it is named. Tingatinga was born in 1932 in southern Tanzania's remote Tunduru district, and had only four years of primary school, in the 1950s, he headed north to Tanga, where he worked on a sisal plantation, and then later to Dar es Salaam, where he worked as domestic help fora British civil servant. During his time in Dar es Salaam, Tingatinga began to seek creative outlets and additional income, first as a member of a musical group, and later as a self-taught artist, painting fanciful and colorful animals on small shingles.

- Tingatinga's wife sold his paintings near Morogoro Stores in Dar es Salaam, and his work soon became popular with European tourists. As his success grew, Tingatinga began to attract a small circle of students, with first his relatives and then others learning to imitate his style.

Then, one night in 1972, Tingatinga was mistaken for an escaping thief and fatally shot by the police. Following his death, Tingatinga's students organised themselves into the Tingatinga Partnership, which in 1990 was renamed the Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society. This cooperative, which numbers about 50 members (including two women), is still based near Morogoro Stores in Dar es Salaam, where Tingatinga's works were originally sold. It has received significant support in recent years, including a new building, from Helvetas (the Swiss Association for International Cooperation).

- Traditional Tingatinga paintings are composed in a square format, and generally feature colorful animal motifs against a monochrome background. One of the most distinctive characteristics of the style is its use of undiluted and often unmixed enamel and high-gloss paints which give Tingatinga paintings their characteristic glossy appearance.

- The life of Edward Saidi Tingatinga was cut short in a 1972 car accident and shooting incident, which occurred just as he was achieving recognition for his square-board paintings. The informal painting school which bears his name has gained a foothold in the panorama of modern African art, and its practitioners continue to earn a livelihood from painting long after the departure of Tingatinga. The paintings are popular with non-African buyers, especially Europeans and Japanese, and there is evidence that stylistic elements and themes are geared to these foreign tastes. The sixty-three paintings illustrated in color in this book are from the collection of the Rosenfeld-Blank family, a German couple from Bad Kissingen.

- Edward Saidi Tingatinga, a self-taught painter born in a village in southern Tanzania on the border of Mozambique, hit upon a successful formula which quickly found a market in Dar es Salaam. Painting on square boards 60 inches x 60 inches, he created fanciful, colorful images of animals and people. Soon he attracted young followers and the Tingatinga school arose, based in the village of Msasani near Dar es Salaam. Although Tingatinga died in 1972, still relatively young, his vision lives on in works of Amonde, Mruta, Tedo and others. This 1987 exhibition in Bonn featured forty-five works of eighteen Msasani painters. Twenty-one black-and-white illustrations.

- Edward Saidi Tingatinga had a very brief artistic career, cut short by his death in 1972. However, he started an informal art movement that now bears his name, and it continues to be active in Dar es Salaam. The Tingatinga paintings are highly colorful and decorative images of birds (the most common subject), wild animals, daily life, and spirit figures (shetini, mganga, and mizimu). They are always painted in flat, bright colors and lack a depth perspective. In this volume, there are 146 paintings, all by Tingatinga's followers, reproduced in color.

- Another thirty-six works of art of the Nyumba ya Sanaa group are illustrated. This group of self-taught Tanzanian artists specializes in batiks, wood-prints and drawings, also made primarily for the expatriate market.

- Jaffary Aussi, one of the more innovative among the younger generation of Tingatinga artists, has carried on the Tingatinga tradition with his own distinctive stylistic interpretations and experiments in color and perspective of distortion. Yet he remains firmly rooted in the original Tingatinga sensibility. Animals predominate in his paintings as they do in all Tingatinga paintings. In fact, it is the animal-man relationship that is one of the hallmarks of this informal school of painting founded (almost by chance) by Edward Saidi Tingatinga in Dar es Salaam in the late 1960s. Tingatinga and his followers are mainly Makua, and it is argued here that Makuan folklore and legends form a thematic base for the Tingatinga paintings, even among younger adherents, who are urban born and bred. Being related by blood ties and working closely together, Tingatinga painting is "family art."

- The works of Jaffary Aussi constitute the centerpiece of this second Tingatinga book by this Japanese publisher. Yamamoto introduces the artist, and Shiraishi in his essay "Portraits of coexistence" elucidates the larger phenomenon of the Tingatinga school and, in particular, its founder Edward S. Tingatinga.

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