It all started with Edward Saidi (E.S.)Tingatinga of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (1939-1972). He painted a series of animal paintings that became wildly popular. Then he started training a number of other fellow Tanzanians to paint in his style. For instance, the image above is by Abdul Amande Makura (b. 1954).
Below is an original by E.S. Tingatinga himself of a zebra with various African birds:
After E.S. Tingatinga died in 1972, six of his associates formed a group called the Tingatinga Partnership to perpetuate their founder’s style. It is thought that the style goes back much earlier than the 20th century, but it has become known as the Tingatinga painting style. According to the article on the style in Wikipedia:
Tingatinga is traditionally made on masonite, using several layers of bicycle paint, which makes for brilliant and highly saturated colours. Many elements of the style are related to the requirements of the tourist-oriented market; for example, the paintings are usually small so they can be easily transported, and subjects are intended to appeal to Europeans and Americans (e.g. the big five [African animals] and other wild fauna). In this sense, Tingatinga paintings can be considered a form of “airport painting.” The drawings themselves can be described as both naïve and caricatural; humour and sarcasm are often explicit.
This afternoon, I took the bus to UCLA and visited the Fowler Museum of global arts and cultures. What impressed me today were the African exhibitions, which included not only Tingatinga art but Fante Asato Flags from Southern Ghana and the work of Kwame Akoto of the Almighty God Art Works in Kumasi, Ghana.
The vigor and color of the African works moved me immeasurably more than anything I have seen by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, or Piet Mondrian. I feel that we have arrived at an impasse with our art scene in the West.
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