Eduardo Said Tinga Tinga (his full name: Eduardo Saidi Tinga Tinga Namoli Ngaunje, in English version Edward Saidi Tingatinga) gave the name to the Tinga Tinga art movement which started in Tanzania in 1960-ties. But Eduardo Tinga Tinga himself was born in northern Mozambique. It was first in the age of 15 when he immigrated to Tanzania.
His father comes from the Ndonde tribe which is a very small tribe. The tribe consists of only 50.000 members. However since they traded with Arabs in 18th and 19th century, they inhabited large tracts of land both in Tanzania and northern Mozambique.
In Tanzania, the Ndonde people including the Tinga Tinga family settled in few villages, among them a village called Mtawatawa, now Ngapa. It was around 1920 when the first member of the Tinga Tinga crossed the border to Tanzania. It was the grandfather of Eduardo Tinga Tinga. The Tinga Tinga family is living in Ngapa until today.
There are many huts in Ngapa which are decorated with mural art. They resemble the modern Tinga Tinga paintings. Therefore it seems that today’s Tinga Tinga paintings originate from the Ndonde mural art. In fact, the mural art was already documented in the 19th century.
It was the German ethnographer Karl Weule who wrote in his diary that the Yao chief Akundonde had his hut decorated with mural paintings. Akundonde lived with the Ndonde people in the Ngapa area around 1850.
The modern Tinga Tinga art is a continuation of the Ndonde mural art tradition. The artist Eduardo Tinga Tinga himself was a mural painter. It is well known that he decorated houses on the Kigamboni peninsula near Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It was a common practice back in the Ndonde villages.
But what made Eduardo Tinga Tinga different from other Ndonde traditional mural painters was his close relationship to the Makua tribe and his business spirit. His mother came from a Makua chief family and her relatives worked for expats at a various embassies and institutions in Dar es Salaam.
Eduardo got an idea to paint the motives on Masonite sheets in hope to sell the paintings to the expat community. He himself was working as a gardener for an English officer George Pollack. And his paintings became very popular. So popular that he even employed his relatives to cut the Masonite sheets, paint the background and sell the finished paintings.
He was married to Agatha Mataka. She came from Makonde tribe which is closely related to the Ndonde tribe. He met her in Tanga when she was already pregnant. He adopted the child, Daudi. But he had to wait 4 years to get his own child, Martina. Both children became painters.
It is evident that Tinga Tinga tried to protect his art during his life. His best friend was Januari Linda, a Makonde with whom he displayed paintings on the first ever recorded exhibition. It was organized by Scandinavians, Jesper Kirknaes one of them. Other close friend was Adeus Matambwe, also Makonde.
Unless Tinga Tinga wouldn’t be shot under strange circumstances by a police in 1972, the art would be attributed to Ndonde or Makonde tribe. But when he died, the Makua relatives started to claim their place within the Tinga Tinga movement. There were no relatives from his father’s tribe – Ndonde in Dar es Salaam, except Thabiti Tingatinga.
Thabiti was the only member of the Tinga Tinga family who stayed with Eduardo Tinga Tinga in Dar es Salaam. And he buried him in 1972. Eduardo was the first child of Saidi Tinga Tinga to pass away. The last one was Fatu Tingatinga who passed away in 2016.