Flash Frontier

Art: Tingatinga Painting – Tanzania

Interviews and Features

Tingatinga paintings are part of the Ndonde mural art tradition. The Ndonde people decorate their huts with various pictures of animals and figures until today.

The artistic style became famous when one of the members of the Ndonde tribe, Edward Saidi Tingatinga (1932 – 1972), came to the city of Dar es Salaam in the 1960s. He didn’t only continue to decorate house walls in Dar es Salaam as his family did in Ngapa village, but he also started to paint the pictures with enamel colours on the ceiling boards.


From a 2015 art installation at Indigo Gallery, here is a bit more about Edward Saidi Tingatinga’s arrival in Dar es Salaam and his early years as a painter:

Born in a village in the far south of the colony then known as Tanganyika, he migrated north to the capital of Dar es Salaam in search of work in 1957. He worked as a gardener for expatriates before finding a better job as ward attendant at Muhimbili National Hospital. A resourceful man, Tingatinga was ever trying other ways to support his family. Admiring the apparent ease with which itinerant artists from the Congo sold their “jungle” paintings to European tourists, he determined to try his own hand at painting. He used readily available materials – high-gloss bicycle enamel on square hardboard ceiling tiles. His elegantly simple paintings of wild animals, birds and village scenes were naïve, charming and sold quickly.


The inexpensive and widely accessible bicycle paint made the paintings possible – and vibrant. The style developed into what is considered a naïve and surrealistic portrayal, often of animals and birds. Meanwhile, Tingatinga took on six apprentices and passed on his newly acquired skills and inspirations; these were mainly family members or close friends from his mother’s Makua tribe.


Edward Saidi Tingatinga died in 1972, after only four years as a painter. His short artist career allowed only a few of his original works to be left behind – which are highly sought after and contested in the art world. The Tinga Tinga Cooperative – the original six apprentices – carried on Tingatinga’s tradition and continued to paint in his style.

Since then, many people have picked up the approach – some related to the original family, and some eeking out a living in the art markets of Tanzania and Kenya. The Tingatinga style launched an entire art industry, which today can be seen in the street markets, tourism centres and airports of East Africa. If you visit East Africa – from Kenya to Tanzania to Mozambique – you will no doubt encounter art that borrows from this style of painting, and pays tribute to the original ideas captured in Edward Saidi Tingatinga’s approach to painting and wildlife, colour and living.


Flash Frontier spoke with Daniel Augusta of TanArt Enterprises, Dar es Salaam, to gain information about Tingatinga art. All images in this feature were given to Flash Frontier with by Daniel Augusta, with permission. More at Tinga Tinga Art

Some artworks in the Tingatinga tradition – by members of the Tingatinga Collective – can be found at Indigo Arts Gallery – Tinga Tinga Today: Tanzanian Popular Art in Transition

For an article about the intersection of art and tourism with Tingatinga art, please see Art Bin – Between Tradition and Tourism:Tingatinga and His Followers by Berit Sahlström.


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