Updated: Nov 16
Tinga is a painting style that originated in East Africa, is one of the most widely represented forms of paintings in Tanzania, Kenya and neighboring countries. The naive genre is named after Tanzanian painter Edward Tingatinga, who had a very short but lasting impact on art and the economy of the region. He elevated a style of art formerly painted on masonite with bicycle paints and sold along the roadside to tourists, into a major art movement. His career was short but his legacy lives on. He formed a collective of artists and inspired the Tingatinga School of Painters that continues today.
Tingatinga was born in 1932 in the remote village of Mindu, in southern Tanzania. As a child he worked in the village helping with farming, painting huts and crafts. In 1955 he moved to Dar es Salaam and found work as a domestic servant in a colonial civil servant's home for six years. It was there that he was exposed to painters who produced inexpensive pictures for sale along the city's main streets. Tingatinga was inspired by the brightly colored paintings of animals and people from the region. He managed to obtain some household paint and a brush from a friend, located a piece of crude ceiling board and created his first picture which he displayed outside a shop and sold for 10 shillings. He befriended some of the street artists and they advised him on supplies. With little schooling or art background, and only the desire to paint, within three years he established a name for himself in Tanzanian art. The National Arts Council offices and in their pavilion at the 1971 Saba International Trade Fair. He gained a contract with the National Arts Council, who provided him with material and handled the sale of his paintings. His career as an artist only lasted a few years but his influence and impact on the art from the region has been long lasting. The influence of Tinga paintings is worldwide. The style evolved into pop culture, clothing, books and films like the Lion King. In England, the BBC created a children’s animated series called Tinga Tales along with a series of books of the same name.