John Kilaka was born on 4 November 1966 in Sumbawunga, southern Tanzania. He expressed an interest in art from an early age. In 1990, after school, he moved to Dar es Salaam to gain further experience in art and began studying the Tinga Tinga art form under Peter Martin.

John Kilaka Kilaka decided to write and illustrate children’s stories based on the oral traditions of his homeland. His first book, Fresh Fish published in 1997, won numerous awards.

Kilaka developed his own painting style, now known as ‘Kilaka style’ in 2000. He has travelled extensively exhibiting his works in Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, France, Switzerland and the UK.