Wall paintings in the village of Ngapa
The Tinga Tinga art has its origins in the decoration of hut walls. It is possible to still find such wall decorations in northern Mozambique and even in south Tanzania, especially in the village of Ngapa, where few of the Tinga Tinga family members settled. Even the father of Eduardo Tinga Tinga crossed the border and settled in the village of Ngapa.
The glossy and colorful enamel paintings which are produced on the touristic spots in Tanzania are derived from these traditional murals. Even Eduardo Tinga Tinga used to decorate the huts with various paintings before he came to Tanga and eventually to Dar es Salaam. But in the city, he used other medium - not soil but enamel colors.
Today, the Tinga Tinga family or clan belongs to a small tribe called Ndonde. It is the tribe of Eduardo Tinga Tinga's father. Interestingly, they continue to practice the wall painting tradition until today. 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 Materials 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. 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.
Soil Paintings on Canvas
After observing the traditional wall paintings, Daniel Augusta experimented with the soils. And he applied the soils straight on canvas. 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 started to generate details and patterns which could never be achieved by hands. The use of the 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.
The "soil art" on this website
This website presents the art works of the traditional Tinga Tinga painters for the first time ever. 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.Tinga Tinga continued to create art of his Ndonde community using modern materials and tools 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 any commercial incitaments. It was only the commercial Tinga Tinga art which was exposed for the last 40 years. The aboriginal Tinga Tinga art was hidden for more than 40 years.