THE ABORIGINAL TINGA TINGA ART
The aboriginal Tinga Tinga art was hidden to the mankind until January 2009. (see the first published photo of a decorated hut on the Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tingatinga_(painting)) It is practiced by the traditional painters from the Ndonde tribe in southern Tanzania in remote villages situated at the border of the largest game reserve in the world - Selous. Only one traditional painter reached the city Dar es Salaam in sixties in the last century. It was Edward Saidi Tingatinga. There, he started the artistic movement called Tinga Tinga, but the origin of the Tinga Tinga art was a mystery. We didn't know about the villages until 2009.
THE TINGA TINGA CHIEFDOM
Tinga Tinga was one of the last chiefdoms which succeeded to resist the Portuguese rule in southern Mozambique. However, in 1730 the Portuguese sent a military expedition to Tinga Tinga and killed the chief Tinga Tinga Kuambo. The Tinga Tinga chiefdom dissolved and the people searched for refugee in other parts of Mozambique.
Edward Saidi Tingatinga was born around 1935. In literature, two different years of birth were published. The first was 1932 and the second was 1935. When he was adult, he went to Tanga to work at a sisal plantation. He worked for a few years in Tanga and later he moved to Dar e Salaam. It was around 1961. Here he started to paint with enamel colors on ceiling boards. It was around 1965.
Unfortunately, he died an police shootings in 1972 and left behind a wife and two children, Daudi and Martina. Daudi passed away in 2014 and Martina follows her father's steps in painting carrier. She also contributes to the research of the origin of Tinga Tinga art.
THE NDONDE MURAL ART AND THE TINGA TINGA PAINTINGS
Tingatinga family or clan belongs to the Ndonde tribe, one of the smallest tribes in Africa. It has only about 15.000 members. The tribe is spread in just five villages deep in the forest which borders to the biggest game reserve in Africa - Selous. The Tingatinga family comes from Ngapa. Unlike the other tribes found in the region, the Ndonde tribe decorates the walls of their huts with paintings until today.
Only one member of this Ndonde community reached the big city Dar es Salaam and transferred the Ndonde mural tradition on ceiling boards using the enamel colors. He signed the paintings produced in the city by his Ndonde name Tingatinga. Soon people started to call these paintings as Tinga Tinga paintings. It was around 1970.
WHY WAS ORIGIN OF THE TINGA TINGA ART HIDDEN?
During his lifetime, Edward Saidi Tingatinga became a very famous artist. But on 17 May 1972, Edward Tingatinga was killed in police shootings as he was mistaken for a thief. He left behind two small children. When they grew up, they realized that the name Tingatinga was used by other artists, especially by the Mlaponi family from the Makua tribe.And this is the reason why we never linked the origin of the Tinga Tinga art to the Ndonde mural tradition.
The Mlaponi painters provided a narrative of Mr.Tingatinga's life only from the viewpoint of his maternal side of the family. Mr.Tingatinga's mother indeed belonged to the Mlaponi family from the Makua tribe which counts about 3 million people. The Mlaponi painters got a vast network and resources to advance the Tinga Tinga art as their own. Therefore, all researchers came to look for the origin of the Tinga Tinga art within the Makua community. But they didn't find any mural paintings there. It took not less than 37 years after the death of E.S.Tingatinga, when the Ndonde mural paintings were observed and photographed. The relatives of Edward Saidi Tingatinga from the Ndonde tribe continue to paint on the hut walls deep in the forest until today.
THE ABORIGINAL TINGA TINGA SOIL PAINTINGS FROM NGAPA
In 2015, for the first time in history, the origin of Tinga Tinga art was unveiled. The Tinga Tinga art comes from the village of Ngapa situated in southern Tanzania. The glossy and colorful enamel paintings which are produced on the touristic spots in Tanzania are derived from the traditional mural art practiced by the Ndonde tribe. When Edward Saidi Tingatinga, a member of the Tinga Tinga clan from the Ndonde tribe arrived to the commercial city of Dar es Salaam, he continued in the Ndonde art tradition.
But in the city, he used other medium - not soil but enamel colors. Suddenly, he was killed in 1972 and for 44 years, the traditional Ndonde art was ignored and maybe even hidden to us. But astonishingly, still a half century after Tingatinga's death, the mural art continues to thrive in the isolated villages in south Tanzania. The artists apply colored soils, ash and charcoal to the flat walls of the grass tatched huts. They paint objects seen in their surroundings, including airplanes and helicopters, the only attribute belonging to the the world "outside". Most of the paintings deal with the people and the wild animals. The popular leopard paintings seen in the "commercial" Tinga Tinga art were also found on the hut walls.
THE SANTESSON WORKSHOP IN NGAPA
The core of the Tinga Tinga clan comes from the village of Ngapa. Most wall paintings were found in this village. On 15 December 2015, the Santesson workshop was founded with one aim - to transfer the mural paintings to the canvas. The workshop was successful. The traditional artists started to apply soils, ash and charcoal on canvases. In that way, the paintings are part of the aboriginal Tinga Tinga art which was brought to us 40 years ago by one of the community's member, Edward Saidi Tingatinga.
The move from the hut walls to the canvas wasn't straight. First of all - the artists had to learn to use the brushes as they only use their bare hands and fingers when they paint the wall paintings. Even the medium posed a lot of questions. Would the soil really attach to the canvas? In fact, the artists experimented with the oil colors first! Only later it was realized that the soils would pass the test if a certain adhesive was added to the soils. The teaching process was lead by an experienced art teacher Nangida Masawe who came from Dar es Salaam and stayed with the traditional Tinga Tinga artists for about 3 weeks.
The name Santesson is derived from the Swedish patrons of the research project, Berndt and Kerstin Santesson. They love the colorful Tinga Tinga paintings but always wondered as many other art lovers around the world where the Tinga Tinga art comes from. Apart the research project, they also helped to buy the art materials and covered the running costs of the workshop. The spaces for the workshop were provided by a Ngapa businessman known as Richy. His premises served also as a base camp for the research expeditions to uncover the mural art. The art teacher Nangida Masawe painted the Santesson workshop in the Tinga Tinga style.
THE MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUES
The Ngapa region is rich in different kinds of soils. The main types of soils are red (high prevalence of metals), yellow (high prevalence of Si) and brown (high prevalence of the organic material). There is also a black soil but since the charcoal is used instead, this type of soil isn't often utilized. The charcoal is sometimes substituted by the coal found in used batteries but this practice is discouraged as the aim is to use only natural materials. The white color is made from the ash. On isolated occasions, the use of plant pigments were also observed but still no research was done on the subject.
The soils are spread on the flat hut walls by hands to create almost life-sized paintings. but the canvases are much smaller so the brushes were introduced to the Ndonde community to achieve a better precision in the painting techniques. In fact, the brushes in the hands of the traditional Tinga Tinga artists started to generate details and patterns which could never be achieved by hands. The use of brushes was also justified by the fact that a new component was added to the soils, coal and ash - an adhesive. The adhesive's goal is to keep the material together when applied to the canvas. The adhesive is not essential for a painting made on a wall in a village so it is never used in wall paintings. But when used on canvas, it improves the durability of the paints.
TINGA TINGA - THE ORIGINAL VERSUS THE MLAPONI
This website presents the art works of the traditional Tinga Tinga painters for the first time in history. The mural art from Africa in general is very rich and has a long history. The first wall paintings were observed by the explorers like Karl Weule in 1906. The mural art was probably practiced for many hundreds of years but yet never exposed to the public.
Mr.Tingatinga continued to create art of his Ndonde community when he reached the city. But when he suddenly died in 1972, his art was widely copied by the Mlaponi family from the Makua tribe. Since the Mlaponi family had no artistic background, they failed to develop the art further. The "new" Tinga Tinga art got labels like "tourist art" or "air port art". These terms denote the fact that the "new" Tinga Tinga art's purpose is mainly commercial.
However it couldn't be more far from the truth - the "original" Tinga Tinga art has hundreds' years of tradition and lives its own life in isolated villages without the pockets of rich tourists. It was only the commercial Tinga Tinga art which was exposed for the last 40 years. The aboriginal Tinga Tinga art was hidden from the art lovers due to circumstances which will be revealed later.