Tinga Tinga art born from the mural paintings

Tinga Tinga art is a popular contemporary art style from Africa. It depicts often animals in a cartoon style. It started in 1960-ties in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania.

The name Tinga Tinga is derived from the surname of the artist Eduardo Tinga Tinga. (In English version: Edward Tingatinga). It is him who founded the Tinga Tinga painting style. However, the Tinga Tinga art has its roots in mural decorations or wall paintings. Until today, you can see many wall paintings in Ngapa, the village of the Tinga Tinga's relatives.

Tinga Tinga traced to 17th century

The beginnings of the modern Tinga Tinga art could be probably placed into 17th century or earlier. At that time, a kingdom called Tinga Tinga thrived on the shores of the Inhambane bay in southern Mozambique. It was so powerful that it resisted hundreds of years of Portuguese colonial rule. In fact, the Tinga Tinga kingdom traded quite independently with the Arabs and even the Dutch despite a Portuguese ban. The kingdom secured its protection against Portuguese via intermarriages with the Arab traders. And it was probably the interaction with the Arabs from 17th century and earlier which gave Tinga Tinga art a decorative flavour resembling the Islamic art, especially seen in Zanzibar today.

The Masacre of the Tinga Tinga Kingdom

The Portuguese couldn't tolerate any more the trading freedoms enjoyed by the Tinga Tinga kingdom and therefore they sent a strong army to defeat it. In 1770, they invaded the Kingdom and captured the chief, Tinga Tinga Kuambo. They set a fire on buildings and killed many people. But many inhabitants of the TInga Tinga kingdom fled to the surrounding bush.

Hundred years on the escape

It seems that the inhabitants of the Tinga Tinga Kingdom, themselves called Tinga Tinga people, fled the Portuguese thousands of miles north. They continued to trade in Arabs, now the commodities were the ebony and slaves. They settled on the key posts of the slave route from Kilwa in east to lake Nyasa on west. They were on the move for about hundred years.

On the long journey they painted various motives on houses wherever they settled. The wall paintings were a kind of language trough which they convened messages to their clan members. For instance, the wall paintings of leopards could save a life since it warned about their presence. And until today, the leopard painting in Tinga Tinga art is very frequent.

Tinga Tinga and the Yao Kingdom

Hundred years after the destruction of the Tinga Tinga kingdom, the remnants of the Tinga Tinga people settled inside a Yao Kingdom, near the lake Malawi. The Yao was a strong tribe. They were also fond of music and visual art, they established a school system and were highly educated. It was inevitable that the Tinga Tinga art melted into the Yao culture. The Yao culture gave birth not only to the Tinga Tinga art, but also to the famous Zimbabwean stone art, sometimes incorrectly refered as Shona art. The core of these Yao artists settled in Tengenenge in Zimbabwe. They even painted in Tinga Tinga art style.

Tinga Tinga in the German army

To remind the reader, it is Mr.Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga who is the central figure in Tinga Tinga art today. His grandfather Mzee Tinga Tinga fought in German army with Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck just in the first days of the German attack on the Mozambican colony in 1917. A heavy struggles were fought in and around Marupa in the north Mozambique, just in between the Indian ocean and the Malawi lake.

The Birth of Eduardo Saidi Tinga Tinga

As a soldier in the land of the Makua tribe in Northern Mozambique, Mzee Tinga Tinga gave birth to a son Saidi Tinga Tinga in around 1918, with a Makua woman. When Saidi Tinga Tinga grew up, he too maried 2 Makua women. The first woman was Agnes Mtembo and the second was Mwenye Alusi. With the first one, he had the famous Eduardo Saidi Tinga Tinga. He was born around 1935.

From Mozambique to Tanzania

The life in northern Mozambique was harder and harder and as the Portuguese started to take increasingly control of the northern provinces. The inhabitants were subjected to forced labour, high taxes and harsch treatment. Many young people see a future as labourer either in Rhodesia or in the English colony of Tanganyika, especially the harbour city of Tanga with a developed coton industry. Eduardo decided to leave for Tanga in Tanzania.

Tanzania Independence

Tanganyika got independence in 1961 and became Tanzania. The coton industry was abandoned and Eduardo left Tanga for Dar es Salaam. He started to work at the National Hospital but later he became self suficient as a naive art painter. He married Agatha Mataka in 1967 who at that time was already pregnant with another man called Lukas. But Eduardo adopted him as his own child and gave him the name Daudi Tingatinga. Later he got the only biological child in 1970, Martina Tingatinga.

The life of Eduardo took the abrupt end when he was fattaly shot in a night car chase on 17 May 1972. Some scholars believed that it was a murder while others believe that it was an accident. He left behind a wife and two small children. Since Tinga Tinga's family was left behind in Mozambique, no one helped the children.

The Makuaization of the Tinga Tinga art

Eduardo Tinga Tinga had a mother from the Makua Tribe and the father from the Ndonde Tribe. However the contemporary painters claim that Eduardo grew up with her Makua mother and didn't share any relevant information about Tinga Tinga's paternal background. Since 1972, only young people from the Makua tribe and specifically the Mlaponi clan and the Nakoko chief family were allowed to paint. The paternal history of Eduardo Tinga Tinga wasn't explored.