Issa Sky

Tingatinga painting, 1969 - 1972

About the object

This Tingatinga painting shows a bird sitting on a tree. The tail and body of the bird are primed in black and blue. The different feathers have been rendered in detail in yellow, beige and blue. The coloration of the tree replicates the blue and beige tones. The background has been rendered in red, the frame is black.
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The square, Tingatinga paintings are named after their format, which was always square from their inception, or named after their creator, Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga. The quality of the "Tingatinga paintings", created in the early 1960s, differs significantly from the "Airport Art", which was mass- produced for sale to European tourists. Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga was born in 1937 in the Tundurn district in southern Tanzania. Until Tanzania gained independence, he earned his living as a "house-boy" with an English colonial official. With Tanzania's independence in 1964, Tingatinga lost his job in 1968 due to the change in social conditions. In search of a new livelihood, he observed the street sale of paintings from the Congo and decided to try his hand at painting, selling the works he made. He sold his first paintings, animal motifs painted with bicycle paint on Masonite boards, in front of a supermarket in Osterbay. New opportunities opened up for Tingatinga when Scandinavian development workers organised an exhibition for him in the National Museum of Da -es Salaam in 1971. The National Development Corporation of Tanzania (NDC) then signed a contract with the artist, which guaranteed him the purchase of his paintings at fixed prices. Tingatinga remained faithful to his "cheap" materials, Masonite board and simple paints and varnishes. Animal depictions, probably inspired by fairy tales and myths of his people, were his central motifs, but he also painted pictures of people in village environments, between mud huts, or of powerful traditional healers. Tingatinga was soon joined by a number of students who helped him with his work, but also developed their own style. In 1972, Tingatinga was accidentally shot dead by a policeman who mistakenly took him for a fugitive during a night-time police vehicle check. Tingatinga style, the clean outlines and bold colour contrasts, as well as the popular animal motifs, were retained by his students and staff. Today, there is a painters' cooperative in Dar es Salaam known as the "Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society", which consists of 50 members. Besides the traditional "Tingatinga style", the artists also developed new ideas and painting styles. The central theme remains the animal world, which, on the one hand presupposes the observation of nature, whereas on the other, it brings East African fables to life, for example: "Why do chickens scratch the sand" or "How the hippo became ugly". The older paintings in particular depict animals predominantly in profile, with heads turned towards the viewer. The accentuated outlines enhance the juxtaposition of the contrasting colours. The range of themes explored by the painters has also branched out to include social and occasionally political motifs. Since the 1990s, a development towards a more naturalistic rendering of motifs can also be discerned. The outlines become finer, the backgrounds more differentiated tonally. The use of mostly undiluted gloss paint is still a striking feature of "Tingatinga painting". In addition to the original square formats of the paintings, landscape formats are now mainly used. The palette of canvases has expanded from Masonite board and hardboard via canvas to calabashes and plates. The Tingatinga paintings in the Ethnological Collection originate from the first and the second generation of "Tingatinga Painting". They were acquired in 1971/72 in Dar-es-Salaam and became part of the collection in 1996. Translation: Timothy Connell

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