Check the Facebook of Hendrick Lilanga

Innovations within Lilanga Art

Hendrick Lilanga is the grandson of the famous artist George Lilanga. He was born to Josephine Lilanga, the daughter of George Lilanga. Hendrick has never seen his father until today. He was born on 20th October 1974 in Dar es Salaam.

Many artists who were previously skillfull assistants to George Lilanga, tried to develope the Lilanga art style further. We can mention, for instance Tomas January, Bakari Amba or even the children of George Lilanga - Costa and Bernard. But it is clear that Hendrick Lilanga has advanced most with innovations and new designs. No wonder. He joined his grandfather already in 1993. At that time it was only Noel Kapanda, a Tinga Tinga painter who worked together with George Lilanga. George Lilanga draw sketches and Noel Kapanda painted. George Lilanga now got more and more orders and he needed help.

Hendrick Lilanga sits on the Tinga Tinga motorbike in front of his painting. The motorbike was commisioned by Daniel Augusta and was used to tour the villages in south Tanzania to collect research material about the origin of the Tinga Tinga art

The first techniques George Lilanga taught Hendrick were goat skin techniques and water color. Though George Lilanga sketched for Noel Kapanda who then filled colors into the paintings he did not need to sketch for Hendrick. He was creative enough to find new designs and soon he replaced his grandfather and started to sketch for Noel Kapanda (after 1995) and for Nchimbi (after 2003). He also developed new techniques. He saw that his grandfather carved calabash and Hendrick ask himself if he could paint on calabash with oil colors. Later he used even water colors to paint on calabash. He has speeded up the process of paintings on goat skin. He was the one who showed his grandfather how to stretch the canvases on bars. Before they put the canvas on the floor and painted directly on it.

Hendrick Lilanga with Daniel Augusta in 2007
Hendrick Lilanga is also known for painting murals

Hendrick has also created tales to the paintings and he wrote a story book. He found inspiration in the old Lilanga sketch book and to every sketch he added a story. That book he sold to George Lilanga who has then sold it further to a collector. In 2007 and 2008 he bought an air plane ticket to Austria where he learned the etching graphic. He is one of few artists in Tanzania who masters this technique. He has surprised the Austrian teachers with new idea to use the same background on etchings as Tinga Tinga painters use in Tanzania in oil paintings – sunset background. Another skill Hendrick knows is the calligraphy. Recently he has started to combine the watercolors and enamel oils on the canvas and goatskin. He has definitely surpassed George Lilanga in creativity and number of techniques.

Hendrick Lilanga is inteviewed in connection with a World Bank project to restore the blocks which decorated the Tanzanian Culture House
Curiously, out of fear for competition the Lilanga´s children Costa and Bernard denied that Hendrick Lilanga was a grandson of George Lilanga. Hendrick Lilanga was also offered huge amount of money in exchange to stop to create new art. Hendrick's paintings could surpass in quality those of his grandfather which were shipped in great numbers to Europe. That would threaten the businnes, was the argument. But it wasn't only Hendrick who was asked to stop to create new art in Lilanga art style. The art dealers tried to stop all assistants to paint or carve after George Lilanga passed away.

Hendrick Lilanga and Keith Haring

Hendrick Lilanga received a present from Daniel Augusta, a DVD featuring the famous artist Keith Haring who is said to be inspired by Hendrick's grandfatgher. Copyright: Daniel Augusta
A poster from 2011 exhibition: "Mentor of Keith Haring, Lilanga" Gallery Tongkeun, Seoul, Korea, source: Ohmynews. Notice: Keith Haring was never tought by George Lilanga. The title is misleading.

The only artist in Tanzania who has succeeded in developing the Lilanga art further  is Hendrick Lilanga, the grandson of George Lilanga. He has been painting the Lilanga spirits in the studio of his grandfather since he was 19 years old. Hendrick is from the Makonde tribe which is well known for the famous Makonde sculptures. The Makonde sculptors carved also the so called Makonde spirits. It was long before Hendrick's granfather started to paint them in 1970-ties. George Lilanga's paintings were just two dimensional projections of these Makonde spirits in the famous Tinga Tinga style. After all, George Lilanga was related to Eduardo Saidi Tinga Tinga through his wife. The Lilanga art is just a part of the broader Tinga Tinga movement.

Some art dealers claim that Keith Haring was inspired by the Lilanga art which was showcased in New York in 1978 and in Washington in 1979. The Bonhams Auction House even claims that Keith Haring aknowledged in an interview that he was influenced by the Lilanga paintings. However the Keith Haring Foundation denied this statement. What we can say sure it that Keith Haring stated that his art is connected to the naive and primitive art. Possibly there was even more intimate relationship between Keith Haring and the Tinga Tinga movement.

Keith Haring sent this painting to Simon Mpata, a Tinga Tinga painter in 1984. Source: www.mpata-art.net
Compare the Keith Haring and Lilanga art

Keith Haring had inevitably encountered the primitive and colorful Tinga Tinga paintings again in Japan during his first visit in 1983. The Japanese are fond of both Keith Haring and Tinga Tinga art. Japan also harbours the biggest collections of Keith Haring and Tinga Tinga's paintings in the world. So Keith Haring sent a painting specifically aimed to Simon Mpata, one of the Tinga Tinga painters. The painting contains a text saying that like Mpata, he [Keith Haring] does not put titles to his paintings.

Even the essay by Julia Groen, the Executive Director of the Keith Haring Foundation which accompanied Keith Haring exhibition in Czech Republic, reinstates the Haring's words:"Most of Haring’s works are untitled. He preferred to leave interpretation to the viewer – his interest was in forging a link between the imagination of the artist and the audience."

My name is Hendrick Lilanga

Hendrick Lilanga (right) with Patrick Imanjama (left) and Halfani Nchimbi (middle). The photo was taken in Austria

I’m Hendrick Lilanga.  I was born in 1974 in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. I belong to the Makonde by tribe and I am the grandson of the pioneer of Lilanga art  style known as George Lilanga.

I completed my school in Tanga, Pangani in 1993 and moved to Dar es salaam to join my grandfather  George Lilanga. He taught me to paint the Lilanga spirits. I also joined Kizuiani Secondary School in 1993 till 1994.

Between 1993 and 1998, I worked as a freelance artist in fine art.  In 2007 and 2008 I went to Salzburg, Austria to attend a  Graphic etching course which was hosted by the Summer  Academy of Fine Arts . At the end of both  courses  my work was exposed in the final exhibition.

Also in 2007  I attended a  Calligraphy course in the University of Dar es Salaam, then  in 2010 the workshop was held again organized by Vipaji Foundation. 2011 Vipaji Foundation organized another course  which  involved working with clay.     

Hendrick Lilanga in front of Hyundai car with his fans in South Korea

The List of Publications and Exhibitions

2016  A concise study on contemporary Art in Tanzania
2014  Makonde Devil in Jyvaskyla Finland
2014  Face 2 Face in Turnhout Beijium
2014  Dar  Art  Exhibition in Tanzania
2013  Miami Artfair in America
2013  Art show in Koex Seoul Korea
2013  Gallery Tongkeun, Seoul in Korea
2013  The National Assembly Seoul in Korea
2013  KIAF  Korea International Art Fair
2013  Frends of Africa in Kimdaejung Convention Center in South Korea
2o13  Tinga tinga Mzuguno Miracle in Donguan China
2013  Kalao Gallery  in Bilbao Spain
2013  Vipaji Foundation Exhibition in Dar es salaam Tanzania
2012  Art Fair Affordable in Rome Italy
2011  Jua Kali  ( East African Community Union ) in Kampala Uganda
2009  Makonde Carving Gallery in Hamburg Germany
2006  Real Art Gallery in Zanzibar Tanzania
2006  Fathers and Sons in National Museum in Dar es salaam Tanzania
2001  East African Movie in Dar es salaam Tanzania
2000  East African Movie in Dar es salaam Tanzania
1999   Bagamoyo art Festval in Tanzania