What is Tinga Tinga?

Tinga Tinga is art style originating from East Arica. It is called after Edward Saidi Tingatinga. He was an artisan born in South Tanzania around 1936 and he painted colorful paintings in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania. The paintings became popular among expatriates in Tanzania. Tingatinga died in 1972. However his students continued to paint and the group of painters grew in numbers. Later they formed Tinga Tinga Partnership which was registered as Tinga Tinga Arts Co-operative Society in 1990. Today, the popular style has spread even outside the group of Tingatinga´s relatives and tourists may find Tinga Tinga art works on many places in East Africa.


African Map

Tanzania - the Home of Tinga Tinga

Tinga Tinga´s home is Tanzania. This remarkable country is situated under equator in East Africa and borders to Kenya. Tanzania is extremely popular tourist destination because of the vast wildlife - one of last to be found on our planet. Tanzania is also known for the highest African mountain Kilimanjaro and the legendary island of Zanzibar where Fred Mercury was born. Tanzania is peaceful country with huge cultural diversities - 120 tribe and many religions are found here. Tanzania is also known for the famous Makonde art - sculptures made from ebony tree.



6 Main Features

1. They come from Tanzania

You will find them just everywhere in Tanzania. And that is reflected in the paintings too. Haven´t you seen paintings depicting the highest mountain of Africa - Kilimanjaro? Or what about the biggest market in East Africa - Kariakoo? Maybe Zanzibar, Mount Meru, never ending savannah or Masai will are more known to you?

2. Tinga Tinga is a name of a person

And that person lives and paints right now. He is called Daudi Tingatinga (also spelled Tinga Tinga) and is son of Edward Tingatinga who started to paint in 1968. In fact most of painters are related to the family of Mr. Tingatinga


3. Using a Special Technique - Enamel Colours

The most important feature of Tinga Tinga art is that the paintings are painted with enamel colours. Without enamel colors - no Tinga Tinga. So what are these enamel colours? The frames of your window are probably painted with enamel colours. And definitely your metal fence in garden. Or metal garage port. The enamel colours have characteristic turpentine odour. Those are industrial colour, not art colours.

4. Highly Decorative Patterns

Whatever the motive, you will find some common features in every Tinga Tinga painting. The "secret" of Tinga Tinga paintings are the dots. You will find them on almost every painting. The most popular of all animals is guinea fowl due to many dots on feathers. The second most popular animal is leopard. You see again the dots. To summarize it - the repetitive pattern is underlying recept for cooking up a good Tinga Tinga painting

5. A Black Border - Not Any More!

Once there was a black border or black wooden board on every Tinga Tinga painting. That is not the case today.

6. What are the Roots of Tinga Tinga Art?

That is a bit of mystery. Why there is so big Tinga Tinga art movement in Tanzania? Sometimes Tinga Tinga art is called a tourist art so the demand from tourists could be explanation to why hundreds of painters frequent streets of Tanzanian cities. But that is only partly true since in Kenya there are more tourists and no Tinga Tinga art. Maybe the roots could be the widespread wall paintings on hut walls in South Tanzania, the home of Tinga Tinga painters. Maybe the many thousand rock paintings are predecessors of Tinga Tinga paintings. After all - the birth place of Edward Tingatinga is crowded with rocks. But in fact - we don´t know anything about the roots to Tinga Tinga art!


Tinga Tinga is more than popular art from Tanzania, East Africa!

By Daniel Augusta

Tinga Tinga is a name for a well-known painting art style from Tanzania, East Africa which was started in 1968 by Edward Saidi Tingatinga. Since then the family of E.S.Tingatinga operates from Tinga Tinga Partnership and later from Tinga Tinga Arts Co-operative Society based in the commercial capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. Though the Tinga Tinga refers to art, much of the production is rather handicraft which includes the reproduced paintings and various products aimed for international markets. These products include hand-painted plates, glass, pencils, decorative objects and others.

Photos from Left: 1. Daimu Zuberi, 2. Steven Lewis, 3. John Kilaka

Tinga Tinga brand spread throughout Tanzania and East Africa -without any effective tools to protect the name and production of the Tinga Tinga Coopertive. Tourists may find Tinga Tinga paintings and products in Zanzibar, Arusha and even in Kenya. Today, there are estimated 500 painters in East Africa. Most of them copy and imitate the art and handicraft of the family of E.S.Tingatinga. But not only poor Tanzanians infringes the copyrights of Tinga Tinga Cooperative but even rich international companies registered Tinga Tinga as trademark. Often they use the traditional designs of Tinga Tinga art in their own products. Tingatinga family is seldom profiting from its creative ideas.

But during the short art carrier of E.S.Tingatinga, the art and handicraft production was under control.  E.S.Tingatinga accepted only six relatives as his students. These were Ajaba Mtalia, Adeus Mandu, January Linda, Simon Mpata Kasper Tedo and Omari Amonde. Though E.S.Tingatinga was of Mgindo tribe after his father, he was brought up by his mother Agnes Ntembo from Makua tribe.  He was born in 1935 in south Tanzania in the village of Namochelia which does not exist today. The nearest village is Mindu, situated ca 70 Km east of Tunduru town. Many relatives of Tingatinga still lives in south Tanzania.

Photos from left: 1. Jabili, 2. Rubuni, 3. Chiwaya 4. S.Omary

The painting skill of E.S.Tingatinga is possible to trace to his job as a wall painter in his native village. The wall painting tradition is spread in south Tanzania and the young Tingatinga was painting on the walls of the huts animals and stories. He later came to Dar es Salaam where he first worked as gardener for an expatriate Mr. George Pollack, then as a street vendor and then he secured a job at Muhimbili hospital. His creative spirit provoked him to various activities such as music, dance, weaving and painting. It was easier to find colors and materials in the city than in village. He started to experiment with them. While in his village he was limited to soils and ash, he quickly found the industrial enamel colors and the construction wooden sheets sold in Dar es Salaam.

From a purely technical standpoint, Tinga Tinga art can be defined as painting on wooden sheets or canvas using enamel industrial paint which are widely used for painting of windows or metals. The paintings can be as small as 20x20cm, while the biggest reach several meters in diameter. The painting technique is complicated as the painter must wait until each layer of the oil color dries before the next layer is applied. But the result is a stunningly shining painting which was very popular among the foreign expatriates. They paid cash to Tingatinga for the paintings and soon Tingatinga decided to leave his job at hospital. He became a professional artist now.

Photos from Left: 1. Omari Amonde, 2. Daimu Zuberi, 3. Agnes Mpata

Edward Tingatinga painted single animals on colorful backgrounds. The animals were painted in a simple, symbolical way. Both the colors and shapes do not correspond to the animals in the real world. Black antelope, white and black giraffe, white and black leopard are some of examples. The shape of body parts was further simplified so no details are shown. Decoration in form of plants, birds or landscape was very rare. Instead Tingatinga talked in the language of symbolism which is frequently seen in shamanism. Many of Tingatinga´s paintings dealt with the world of spirits and shamans.

The Tingatinga´s life came to abrupt end in 1972 when he was accidentally shot by a bullet from police who mistakenly regarded him as thieve speeding in the Volkswagen Beetle. Tingatinga left behind his two children who now work at the Tinga Tinga Cooperative in Dar es Salaam – Martina and Daudi Tingatinga. The 6 students were also left without master and teacher and the time was difficult for them. Without a master the group quickly grew up but without any direction. However the group was approached by Mr.Salum Mussa known also as Mzee Lumumba. He proposed to build Tinga Tinga Partnership. It was also decided on a meeting attended by Saidi Chilamboni, Omari Amonde, Hashim Mruta and others that the name Tinga Tinga would be used for paintings and products.

Above far left:  Image by Dmitri Markine www.dmitrimarkine.com

The Tinga Tinga Partnership was changed in 1990 to Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative Society. Today it has 54 members, most of them related to the family of Tingatinga. Each member contributes 15% from his sales to the Cooperative so that the basic expenses are covered. Most of the artists are either illiterate or semi-literate and this has greatly retarded the Cooperative´s development. In 1996 the Cooperative got development aid from HELVETAS, a Swiss NGO to build a construction of an art gallery in Oysterbay in Dar es Salaam.  In 2008 the artists signed a contract with Tiger Aspect in which both the family name and the traditional designs are granted to third parties such as Penguin, BBC or Walt Disney. The artists got minimum benefit.

Today Tinga Tinga is a concept that wide public has been drawn to, but which, over time, has lost its uniqueness. In the past, Tinga Tinga art and products could be sold on its name alone, but increasingly other works are being presented as "Tinga Tinga" as well.

Tinga Tinga - Art versus Handicraft

Most tourists will encounter the Tinga Tinga painters on Zanzibar, under Kilimanjaro mountain at the gate of Serengeti. The reason is simple - the art is catering to tourists, the painters strive to sell their paintings to the casual foreign visitors. But the website Tinga Tinga Studio brings you much more! It brings you the paintings which almost never reach the hands of casual traveller but makes it into museums, galleries and auctions houses. You too may decorate your own spaces with this much appreciated art work! Photo: The son of E.STingatinga repairs grave of his father

Some facts about Tinga Tinga

  • Name of art: Tinga Tinga or Tingatinga
  • Location: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, East Africa.
  • Estimated number of painters: ca 500
  • Started in year: 1968
  • Founder: Edward Saidi Tingatinga (ca 1936 - 1972, born in Mindu in south Tanzania)
  • Teqniques: Mostly enamel colours on canvas or cealing board
  • Derivative Products: T-shirts, pencils, plates and others
  • Origin: wall paintings in south Tanzania
  • Institutions: Tingatinga Arts Co-operative Society and Tingatinga Arts Promotional Society, Sliway Group, Tinga Tinga Promotional Society
  • Number of Exhibtions: ca 5-10 exhibitions running parallell. (2014)
  • Supporting organisations: HELVETAS (Switzerland), BASATA (National Arts Council of Tanzania)
  • Most popular in: Japan, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Sweden, South Korea
  • Tinga Tinga Projects: FIFA - official art collection, Walt Disney - animated films Tinga Tinga Tales, African Art Product - Memo Card Game, HEYE - calendars and puzzles and many more
  • Most Expensive Painting: over €37.000 sold at auction house in Paris in October 2010, Rajabu Chiwaya, Tingatinga Cooperative TACS
  • New styles developed by: George Lilanga, John Kilaka, Omari Amonde, Abdul Mkura, Mohamed Charinda, David Mzuguno, Sauyki Matindiko
  • The largest image: Wall painting in Copenhagen, Denmark (ca 5 floors high building)
  • The oldest painter: Omari Amonde, over 70 years old (the last living student of E.S.Tingatinga)
  • The greatest scholars: Jesper Kirknaes (Denmark), Merit Teisen (Denmark), Yves Goscinny (Belgium), Hanne Thorup (Demark), Christine Hatz (Switzerland) , Felix Lorenz (Germany), Kenji Shiraji (Japan), Shimaoka (Japan)
  • Books: Tingatinga - Popular art from Tanzania by Yves Goscinny
  • Tinga Tinga women: ca 10 (out of hundreds painters)
  • Typical themes: Animals. Very popular is leopa
  • I am welcoming any feedback in order to revise the facts about Tinga Tinga, write me on Daniel@TanzaniaArt.com.


Benjamin Mkapa

Benjamin Mkapa
The previous president of

Deo Kafwa

Deo Kafwa, TANART

Yves Goscinny

Yves Goscinny

What did they say about Tinga Tinga?

"Tingatinga paintings have grown to become world famous and a hallmark of indigigenous Tanzanian art of which we are most proud. Unfortunately, very few people abroad have seen original Tingatinga paintings, the market beeing full reproductions and immitations". By Benjamin William Mpaka, The previous President of the United Republic of Tanzania (source: Christine Hatz, Tingatinga, 1996)

"Tinga Tinga art existed for a long time, as can be seen from the ancient rock-drawings in certain regions of Tanzania. Also wall-painting, that is decoration of house-walls with different shades of clay - red, blak and white - has long been practised in the southern and central regions. These pictures show mostly animals and birds, sometimes also human figures" By Deo Kafwa, previous Marketing MAnager of Nyumba ya Sanaa (source: Christine Hatz, Tingatinga, 1996)

"I have discovered that many of the images are mass-produced, however, those particular would be the ones the artists knew they could sell to all kind of tourists. On the other hand, they also always seem to be working on the other paintings, somehow more personal. For the artists to have enough money to be able to work on the more personalised paintings they need to produce the ones that they "know by heart" so as to make a living." By Pernille Nessje, researcher

"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 them to reach the better season...." By Yves Goscinny. An art critics from Belgium who lived in Tanzania for more than 10 years

"In Europe, art has been growing very abstract to an extent that some art lovers feel that it has become a monologue- an artist expressions that makes little sense.
When the same art lovers arrive in Africa, they found real honesty; artists telling deep stories that easily depict their lives while at the same time probing the issues of life." By Mwenda wa Micheni, Africa Review