Tanzania - Tingatinga Arts Achievement


Our special thanks goes to the Tanzania-Swiss Trust Fund, the Swiss Foundation for Culture PRO HELVETIA and SWISSAIR for their funding.

Many more institutions and people have contributed to the promotion of Tingatinga Art leading to the publication of the book titled “Tingatinga Cooperative Society”. We wish to pay a special tribute to the Swiss Association for International Cooperation, HELVETAS, which raised funds for the construction of the new Tingatinga Art Gallery, in particular to Mr. Hans Joerg Zumsteg, and to Mrs. Christine Hatz for introducing Tingatinga to HELVETAS and for her continued support of the Cooperative. We also owe much gratitude to the designer of the Gallery, Mr. Thomas Zimmermann, the local engineer, Mr. Joe Mtalo and to the contractor, Mr. Lema.

Contribution of Tingatinga arts to the Tanzanian culture

Each Tingatinga picture and carvings has a story. The stories in the picture illustrate the natural beauty of the Tanzanian environment, the day-to-day activities of the people of rural and urban areas. Thus, through Tingatinga paintings and carvings, many people are learning about the importance of preserving the environment and the Tanzanian culture.

Education and promotion of unity

Before his death, Tingatinga took measures to make sure that the skills he had were passed over to the next generation. After his death, his students continued with the art, had faith in it and lived for it. Moreover, they were trying their very best to see to it that the art prospers by teaching their colleagues as they were in turn, taught by Tingatinga.

In order to enhance the artwork, protect their interests and get rid of exploitation and harassment, the artists formed a co-operative society known as Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society that split by forming another society called Crafts and Tingatinga arts promotion Society. These societies have helped them in presenting their ideas, problems as well as their success in one voice. Hence it has enabled them to be recognized and to secure assistance from various well wishers. For instance, the Swiss government has assisted the society in building an Art Gallery and workshop behind Morogoro Stores in Dar es Salaam.

Common market

Although this artistic work is not paying very well yet, it gives self-employment to many artists. By registering themselves as a co-operative venture, the artists here acquired a title deed for the plot and they erected a temporary building to sell their wares. Many tourists coming to Dar es Salaam visit the cooperative. This helps to boost the business.

Entertainment and pedagogical messages

Tingatinga paintings have a unique style. They have decorative (fancy) patterns and a wide range of colours, which combine to give a unique and pleasant appeal.

This stylish nature of the paintings normally leads to a presupposition by most of the people that Tingatinga paintings are basically for decoration. This view might be true, but the type of paintings depends largely on the painter and the projected customers. For example, paintings depicting birds or animals are basically targeted at the tourist market. Therefore they are frequently reproduced. There are also paintings, which, apart from being colourful and fanciful, carry strong messages and deep feelings of the artists, their community and culture.

It is evident that due to their stylish features and figures, Tingatinga paintings entertain as they attempt to depict realities, events and to portray the feeling of the artist by using lines, dots variations and combinations of different colours and techniques.

Future plans

Now the Tingatinga co-operative group plans to set up a modern art center open for all artists. It will hold exhibitions and facilitate the exchange of ideas pertaining to artistic work. With the construction of the new building, artists are now working conformably. All members of the cooperative are aiming at promoting their art, not only abroad, but also within Tanzania.

Is the country really aware of the magnitude of Tingatinga’s art form contribution in promoting Tanzanian culture economically, politically and socially?

Is the Nation doing anything to see to it that the artists and their works such as Tingatinga paintings, ebony carvings, Dr. Zawose’s songs and so many others are protected? How is the copyright of these works protected?

From the above discussion, it is evident that Tanzania as well as all institutions dealing with culture and its propagation should now take an active role in promoting the Tingatinga artists, help the artists to develop their talents through training in securing and strengthening local and export markets. They also need help in creating linkages and networks with other artists so that they can exchange ideas. More centres should be created and there should be documentation of the Tingatinga art, which should be preserved in the National Museum together with the original Tingatinga paintings.

Last Updated on Tuesday 24th November 2009