Tingatinga (painting)

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Tingatinga (also spelt Tinga-tinga or Tinga Tinga) is a painting style that developed in the second half of the 20th century in the Oyster Bay area in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and later spread to most East Africa. Tingatinga is one of the most widely represented forms of tourist-oriented paintings in Tanzania, Kenya and neighboring countries. The genre is named after its founder, Tanzanian painter Edward Said Tingatinga.

The Tingatinga school of painting sold their work in Oyster Bay, Dar es Salaam. Picture from 1973

Tingatinga is traditionally made on masonite, using several layers of bicycle paint, which makes for a brilliant and highly saturated colors. Many elements of the style are related to requirements of the tourist-oriented market; for example, the paintings are usually small so they can be easily transported, and subjects are intended to appeal to the Europeans and Americans (e.g., the big five and other wild fauna). In this sense, Tingatinga paintings can be considered a form of "airport painting".[1] The drawings themselves can be described as both naïve and caricatural, and humor and sarcasm are often explicit.


Edward Tingatinga began painting around 1968 in Tanzania (Dar es Salaam).[2] He employed low cost materials such as masonite and bicycle paint and attracted the attention of tourists for their colorful, both naïve and surrealistic style. When Tingatinga died in 1972, his style was so popular that it had started a wide movement of imitators and followers, sometimes informally referred to as the "Tingatinga school".[3]

The first generation of artists from the Tingatinga school basically reproduced the works of the school's founder. In the 1990s new trends emerged within the Tingatinga style, in response to the transformations that the Tanzanian society was undergoing after independence. New subjects related to the new urban and multi-ethnic society of Dar es Salaam (e.g., crowded and busy streets and squares) were introduced, together with occasional technical novelties (such as the use of perspective). One of the most well known second-generation Tingatinga painters is Edward Tingatinga's brother-in-law, Simon Mpata.[4]

Because of his short artistic life, Tingatinga left only a relatively small number of paintings, which are sought-after by collectors. Today it is known that fakes were produced from all famous Tingatinga paintings like The lion, Peacock on the Baobab Tree, Antelope, Leopard, Buffalo, or Monkey.[5]


Wall paintings in Ngapa, the village of E.S.Tingatinga's father
Wall paintings in Ngapa depict animals in a naïve style that might resemble Tingatinga art

It is controversial whether Tingatinga's style is completely original or a derivative of traditional forms of East Africa. In his seminal paper Tingatinga and His Followers, Swedish critic Berit Sahlström claimed that Tingatinga was of Mozambican origin and thus suggested that his style might have connections with modern Mozambique. The claim that Tingatinga was of Mozambican descent is nevertheless rejected by most scholars and by the Tingatinga Society. Art trader Yves Goscinny suggested that Edward Tingatinga might have been influenced by Congolese paintings that were sold in Dar es Salaam at his times.[6] The source of this claim could be some articles by Merete Teisen, where she also claims that Tingatinga decorated two house walls for payment before he started painting on masonite boards.

The claim by Merete Teisen about Tingatinga decorating house walls might also be interpreted as a clue of another origin of Tingatinga's paintings, namely the traditional hut wall decorations of Makua and Makonde people. These paintings were first witnessed by Karl Heule in 1906 and described in his book Negerleben in Deutsch-Ost Afrika.[7] Also ethnologist Jesper Kirknaes and Japanese painting curator Kenji Shiraishi, as well as modern travellers, have seen and documented these paintings in several locations of southern Tanzania, including Ngapa, a village where many relatives of Tingatinga's father still live today.

Jesper Kirknaes also documented those painting being done in Dar es Salaam by Makua and Makonde migrants. Shiraishi is one of the scholars who most firmly supported the theory that Tingatinga's art is connected to traditional Makua wall paintings. Among other considerations, Shiraishi observed that it is unlikely that a style emerged and spread so quickly over most East Africa without any connection to traditional art. He claimed that his studies provided evidence for this claim.[8]

In 2010 Hanne Thorup interviewed Tingatinga student Omari Amonde, who confirmed that Tingatinga used to paint on hut walls as a young boy (around 12 years old).[9]

Further elaborating on the Makua painting hypothesis, Shiraishi also suggested a connection between hut walls, painting and traditional rock paintings, an art form that in Africa has continued past Stone Age to at least the 19th century. Based on this connection, Shiraishi concludes that Tingatinga art might be seen as the "longest artist trend ever".[10]

The Tingatinga Cooperative Society[edit]

After Tingatinga's death, his direct 6 followers Ajaba Abdallah Mtalia, Adeusi Mandu, January Linda, Casper Tedo, Simon Mpata, and Omari Amonde[11] tried to organize themselves. Relatives of Tingatinga also joined this group, which would be later called the "Tingatinga (or Tinga Tinga) Partnership". Not all of Tingatinga followers agreed to be in the partnership; some created a new group at Slipway.[12] In 1990, the Tingatinga Partnership constituted itself into a society, renamed to Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society (TACS).[13]

The Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society launched their own website in May 2018: www.tingatingaArt.com

Tingatinga and George Lilanga[edit]

Although the internationally acclaimed Tanzanian artist George Lilanga was not a student of the Tingatinga school, nor a member of the Tingatinga Society, he's known to have frequented Tingatinga artists,[14] and some influence of Tingatinga is evident in his work, for what concerns painting (an art form that Lilanga approached in 1974).[15] This influence has been recognized by Lilanga himself in an interview with Kenji Shiraishi, specifically in reference to the use of enamel paint and square hardboards.[16] Besides using materials and techniques originally adopted by Tingatinga painters, Lilanga's art resembles Tingatinga also in its use of vibrant colors[17] and its composition style, that shares the same horror vacui of Tingatinga art. It has been suggested[18] that Lilanga (who was originally a sculptor) actually learned to paint from Tingatinga painters such as Noel Kapanda and later Mchimbi Halfani, who collaborated with him.[19] The collaboration between Lilanga and Kapanda lasted several years.[20]


Alone in Blue by Moses Wanyuki, 2007
  1. ^ Exploring the Tingatinga Art Movement in Tanzania
  2. ^ "Tinga Tinga art". Tingatinga.org. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  3. ^ The tingatinga school of painting. This is an informal term (i.e., those who paint after Tingatinga's example) and not to be confused with the Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society, which is a specific organization, although sometimes also referred to as a "school". "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Tingatinga first students Archived 7 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Are Tingatinga fakes a problem today?". Alexdrummerafrica.blog.com. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Art in Tanzania 2010"
  7. ^ K. Weule (1908), Negerleben in Deutsch-Ost Afrika, Leipzig.
  8. ^ Kenji Shiraishi, Commentary to Tingatinga II; article: Tinga TingaContemporary African Art and Mural; Tingatinga: Afurikan poppu-ato no sekai / Kenji Shiraishi and Fumiko Yamamoto. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1990)
  9. ^ Hanne Thorup and Chitra Sundaram (2010), Tingatinga, Kitsch or Art, p. 22; article: Off the walls to Hard Board and Canvas; What inspired Tingatinga?
  10. ^ Kenji Shirashi, Lilanga's Cosmos, Africa Hoy, p. 7
  11. ^ Mwasanga, National Arts Council, Mture Publishers, Tingatinga, p 30
  12. ^ Abdellahamani Hasani
  13. ^ "Tingatinga Co-operative Society". Tingatinga.org. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  14. ^ Lilanga, George (2007). Colors of Africa. p. 136. ISBN 978-88-89298-32-9.
  15. ^ George Lilanga, Kamphausen
  16. ^ See K. Shiraishi, Lilanga's Cosmos, Africa Hoy, p. 7. The book reports Lilanga's words as follow: It was entirely my own idea to incorporate this style. Nobody suggest I do it. In the Tingatinga style, I use enamel paint on hardboard. This board is excellent for achieving vivid color."
  17. ^ Enrico Masceloni, Catalogue Raisonne, George Lilanga, p. XII
  18. ^ Thorup, Tine; Sam, Cuong (2011). Tingatinga Kitch Or Quality Bicycle Enamel on Board & Canvas. p. 68. ISBN 978-87-992635-2-3.
  19. ^ See also the Lilanga.org and Makonde Carvings websites
  20. ^ K. Shiraishi, Tingatinga and Lilanga, The Museum of Art, Kochi, Japan 2004



External links[edit]

  1. ^ Art, Tinga Tinga. "Tinga Tinga Art | Handmade African Art, Decor, Gifts & Paintings". Tinga Tinga Art. Retrieved 5 October 2018.