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Tanzania Art 2000 - Forword

At the present time, the art in Tanzania is like the blood in your body, you do not see it and pay no attention to it, but it makes you alive and bursts in your veins whenever you become emotional. Actually, and to your own dismay, you only notice it when you happen to bleed, ¦that is, when another artist dies.


Societies willingly modern tend to minimise the importance of art and seem to forget that for one thing, art makes the difference between mankind and the rest of the living creatures; by depriving us of art, we are being returned to the animal kingdom (which is unlikely in terms of evolution) or we are already being transformed into robots or cyber-men (which seems trendy)!

So far, there is still hope that we will remain cultural beings, willingly or not carrying the genetic memory of our own kind and being the recipient of our cultural environment, and of our parental and social education.

Also, and happily enough, the anonymous craftsmen, storytellers, dancers and traditional artists of the past have succeeded in planting the cultural roots in this plot of the world where you were born or where you have chosen to live and grow; in Tanzania, these roots are particularly deep and possibly go way down to the emergence of the first man.

In contemporary Tanzania, the craftsmen and artists living and working in this land, pursue the tradition of what has always been their task, that is to continuously quest for the meaning of our lives, in our relations to other individuals and to society, sharing the pain when in sorrow and misery, and rejoicing when finding happiness and love, all of this being expressed in a creative form that could move our senses, mind and soul. Art!

Art very much exists in Tanzania, but has been subdued; with no places to exhibit, the artists have simply gone underground and built around them a survival network that will allow, perhaps, to reach the better season; it is and will continue to be the intention of the Art in Tanzania organisation, to uncover their existence and artwork by providing, at least once a year, the proper exposure they deserve.

We have created this event (1998), with only our personal will and limited means, and the first Art in Tanzania ˜98 exhibition did take place at the Russian-Tanzanian Cultural Centre, in Dar es Salaam, a very co-operative cultural centre with a dynamic director; for the second edition, Art in Tanzania ˜99, we rented the National Museum for a week, to enter a national forum place.

This annual event, the art event in Tanzania, is taking place at the end of the year (last week of November) and growing fast indeed; as we are now being catapulted into the next century, the Art in Tanzania 2000 exhibition will reach a new level by presenting an increasing number of artists, with more different media used, and by displaying a greater number of outstanding artworks; in the present book and due to the limited space available, we had to resort to present and illustrate a representative selection of them, but in its Part III, one can find the detailed list and how to contact more than a hundred Artists we know in the Dar es Salaam area mainly!

With the support of a few visionary sponsors, we will carry on our uncovering campaign all throughout the country, by both presenting the artists from the different regions but also by moving the Art in Tanzania exhibition around the national territory; but in the meantime, allow me to take you on a eye-opener cultural trip around yourself in the following brief photo album.

A cultural experience around you

If you live in Tanzania or happen to visit this country, you could, if you like, embark in a simple and rewarding cultural trip by just being attentive to your immediate environment.

1.The people.

I have learned in this country that by friendly saluting someone you will immediately trigger in return the warmest welcome and more, particularly if you demonstrate that you were interested enough to learn a few words of Kiswahili.

I have found communicating with people always gratifying, starting with the important ceremony of salutations whereby you stop all affairs to take the necessary time to inquire about someone™s situation, and continuing with a conversation that always carries the comfort of concern and a light-spirited approach to life.

I have seen the signs of art and culture embodied on this old and proud Makonde man™face, and painted on the faces of these Masai youngsters being initiated.

I have thought that if it is true that artists are gentle-mannered persons, then Tanzanians must have a very artistic inclination.

2.The Environment.

I have marvelled at the sight of monumental shrines like the Ngorongoro crater and the majestic Kilimanjaro, but Nature™s overwhelming beauty is never too far and can suddenly irrupt around any corner.

I have sensed the unbreakable attachment bonding the people to the land, the umbilical cord is only cut but the comforting and feeding Nature remains the cherished Mother.

3.In the Streets.

I have met great number of artists working in the streets.

I have stood next to this baobab tree bleeding the excess paint from the brushes of a group of Tingatinga painters, at Morogoro Stores, Dar es Salaam. Passed by the rusting installation of this open market of cooking-fires and frying utensils.

I was suddenly stared at by the inquisitive glance of Nelson Mandela on this side road.

I got confused at this market peas and beans stall thinking that the beautiful colours were also for sale. And completed my shopping of natural medicines at this traditional herborist™s counter.

4.The Tingatinga Co-operative.

I was not in Tanzania when Edward Saidi Tingatinga created these strikingly candid images of African wild animals, and despite his premature death (1972) the spirit of this genuine artist continues to live through the many artists who have followed and developed his original style.

I have talked to the members of this co-operative sheltered in a renovated building at Morogoro Stores, as well as to the other artists who work around this area; the Tingatinga style is used intensively and mushroomed in attractive and decorative variations; distinct new styles have also been created like the cartoons and Zimbabwe styles; amidst the numerous productions you will have to spot your own original artwork.

I have appreciated that Tingatinga remains a strong art style typical of Tanzania and unequalled, and should still have a bright future thanks to the revitalising contributions from younger artists.

5.The Bagamoyo Sculpture School.

I have liked going to Bagamoyo and visit the sculpture school next to the beach; tapping a real reservoir of talented wood-carvers and artists, a few promotions of gifted sculptors have already come out and continue now their flourishing activity independently.

I was struck by the image of all these moulded heads laying in the back yard as if they were the only protruding part of former models, buried in the sand up to their necks.

6.The Mwenge (Makonde) Handicraft Market.

I have walked around the numerous shops of tourists™ curiosities; besides the routine productions, do not disregard the unadulterated beauty of certain beautifully designed figurines, wood combs, ¦ skilfully executed by dedicated but anonymous craftsmen.

7.To Njoka

I have been lucky enough to see a few paintings by the late Tanzanian artist Njoka; a worker at a printers™ workshop, he used the left-over paint to evade himself into the world of art and create abstract compositions of tellurian impetus; you disappeared unnoticed but we are missing you and you pioneer artwork; wherever you are now, I am sure you are the one in charge of mixing the colours of the beautiful sky of Tanzania.

Last Updated on Tuesday 24th November 2009

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