Saidi Chilamboni was born in Nakapanya in southern Tanzania in 1945. Currently, he is the oldest Tinga Tinga painter in Tanzania and one of few painters who met Mr.Tingatinga personally. He was one of the founders of the Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative Society (TACS). To raise funds, he visited Switzerland through the HELVETAS art programme which enabled to set up of the Coops' building in 1996. He was the chairman of the TACS on several occasions. His son, Saidi Omary is also an established painter. Saidi is sometimes called Mjini Taabu. Read the story below to know why....

Saidi Chilamboni – Mjini Taabu (The hard life in the city)

Notice by Daniel Augusta: This story compensate Saidi for the fact that if he had not faced these obstacles he would be probably the first student of E.S.Tingatinga. But then we would not have this story…..

There is a place in Dar es Salaam which is called Mjini Taabu. It is in Msasani and it means “The hard life in the city” (Mjini = city, Taabu = problem). And this is because of Saidi Chilamboni, a Tinga Tinga painter.

Saidi Chilamboni explains:” I came to Dar es Salaam from my native village Nakapanya in 1968, I was 23 years old, at that time.” It was my brother who invited me. But upon coming to Dar es Salaam he declined to provide me accommodation or a place to sleep”.

Therefore I went to my uncle. He told me:”why did your brother call you to Dar es Salaam and then he rejected to provide a place to sleep?...and now you come to me…!”

”So I decided to go to another relative Bwana Hamisi Mohamed. He received me well and though he had only one room he agreed to share it with me. But later his wife came.

Now it was impossible to share the room. “What shall we do now?” asked the brother. And Saidi just stood there silent…..and then said: ”Oh, you see, here it is Mjini Taabu. (Mjini = city, Taabu = problem). If I was in the village I would find a place to sleep, even if it was in the forest. But in the city it is hard.

So again Saidi was looking for a place to stay (it was fourth time now). Luckily he got friends from Waporogo tribe (from Ifakara). They all shared one room and the life went on. But one day the government of Tanzania ordered all people without an ID card and without job to leave Dar es Salaam and return to their homes. All who wouldn´t follow the order would be caught. And really – one night came police to the room and hit the door when all four friends slept. Saidi was lucky, he run away.

Here Saidi´s patience quited and he decided to return to his village. “I spared money to a ticket and I returned back to my village Nakapanya”. It was still the same year 1968. After 4 years in the village he heard that Tingatinga painted and sold the paintings. He met Tingatinga in 1968 in Dar es Salaam when he worked at hospital and he met him in his native village before. “I saw an opportunity. I was myself painting on the walls in my village since 1961. It was just for fun and I liked it. I was sure Tingatinga would accept me as a student. But the same year 1972 I got news that Tingatinga died”

“Now I thought who would teach me. I thought about Amonde, Tedo, Ajaba, Adeusi, Linda and even about Mzee Mruta (who painted the house in Copenhagen). I first thought that Ajaba would teach me because I married his sister” says Saidi

“But when I returned back to Dar es Salaam in 1973 it was Omari Amonde who became my teacher since I liked his paintings” Saidi says. And that time his new life started. He could afford to build even a house, though it was made of clay and grass as in the villages. It was in Msasani and it was in 1983. And on the wall he painted a painting of his life story. He painted himself as he went back to the village after so many failures. And above the painting he wrote “Mjini Taabu”. Many people stopped when they passed and took even photos of the painting. There were many many Mzungus (White men) who came to see the painting. It was very popular.

At that time there was a bus stand nearby the house. People started to call the bus stand “Mjini Taabu”. Saidi recalls: “ I remember one day when I sat in bus and people asked the drive to stop at Mjini Taabu. I was moved”. In fact the passengers discovered later that he was in the bus and he was applauded.

In 2008 Saidi Chilamboni sold the house in Msasani and moved to Mbagala. Even there he wrote “Mjini Taabu” on the wall. When he opened a local restaurant in Mbagala he called it Mjini Taabu too. So now there are two places in Dar es Salaam called “Mjini Taabu”.


Left: Saidi is sitting in front of his house with where wrote "Mjini Taabu" (Problems in the City), Right: Saidi also illustrated the strory (read left)

Said at his new home in Mbagala

Daniel Augusta with Saidi's mother in the native villga Nakapanya, southern Tanzania. Saidi's mother is on your right. The person on the left died and therefore do not appear on the photo from 2015

Saidi paints (Courtesy: Ilona Bittnerova)