THREATENED BY LILANGA ART DEALERS
Daniel Augusta, the owner of the lilanga.org webiste sitting with Robert Karinto, one of artists who got recognition through this website
These are extracts from the German lawyer who represents a Lilanga dealer: Your website further maintains that „It is now established that George Lilanga did not paint any single painting. He simply did not know how to paint.” The falsehood of this incomprehensible assertion is in contradiction to the opinion of diverse art experts and galleries who maintain exactly the opposite.
These assertions are very damaging to the business interest of my client and I am therefore insist that the aforementioned articles be removed from your website by 23. September 2009 and also agree to not produce any similar content on your website at a future date.
If you do not remove the article from your website within the given deadline then I am entrusted to take any further legal action that I deem to be necessary.
FURTHER "ARGUMENT" WHY THERE ARE NO LILANGA FAKES
"Would some of the worlds leading auction houses such as Sotheby’s e.g., allow themselves to be tricked over a period of decades? Wouldn't their teams of experts have become just a little suspicious if there was a feeling that the artworks weren’t from Lilanga?" Eric Makin, the owner of www.shikra.de after he learned about my articles in 2009
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE WEBSITE AFTER 2 YEARS
Costa Ilalo, Noel Kapanda, Agustino Malaba and Vinta Malaba were labeled as cheaters but now are portrayed in catalogues and exhibitions as prominent Lilanga artists.
I am both happy and unhappy. I am happy because this website helped to reveal talented Tanzanian artists who were employed by George Lilanga and created the great Lilanga art which is shown worldwide. Before I set up this website, Malaba was hardly mentioned in connection with Lilanga. But now even the National Gallery in Firenze has "discovered" him. Before I set up this website, the name Robert Karinto was unknown in connection with Lilanga. But now Shikra.de "suddenly" sells and exhibit Karinto´s lilanga sculptures. And before I set up the website, Noel Kapanda was unheard of in West. But now his name is declined by dealers such as Captain Felix Lorenz. It seems to be the achievements of this website.....
I am unhappy because the Lilanga art has been commercialized to the extent that no one is really interested in discussion about art anymore. No one is interested in history. For two years I received only one letter. And it was from German lawyers demanding 5.100 Euro for supposed copyright infringement demanded by one of Lilanga dealers. It demonstrates where lies the focus of interest in Lilanga art and history.
HOW THE WORLD WAS CHEATED?
Above: George Lilanga with Charles, Prince of Wales.
1994 - "Lilanga's Cosmos" - Okariya Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
1995 - "Lilanga's Artist in Residence and Workshop" - Hiroshima City Moderne Art Museum, Hiroshima, Japan
1999 - "Georges Lilanga : Storie Africane" - Franco Cancelliere Arte Contemporanea, Messina, Italy
- Fabbrica Eos, Milano
2002 - "Georges Lilanga" MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland
2003 -" Linanga d'ici et d'ailleurs" - Centre Culturel François Mitterrand, Périgueux, France
- "George Lilanga" - Christa's Fine Tribal Art Gallery, Copenhague, Denmark
2004 - "Tingatinga and Lilanga" - Kouchi Prefecture Art Museum, Kouchi, Japan
1974 - National Museum, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
1976 - National Gallery of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
1977 - Goethe Institut - Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
1978 - Marykoll Ossining Centre, New York, USA
- IMF Hall, World Bank, Washington, USA
1979 - National Museum, Dar Es Salaam, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
1981 - "International Summer Academy", Salsburg, Austria
1983 - National Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe
1984 - "International Summer Academy", Salsburg, Austria
- "Arts & Crafts Center", Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
1985 - Travelling Exhibition: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland
1986 - "Arts & Crafts Center", Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
1988 - Travelling Exhibition: London, Glasgow
1989 - "Arts & Crafts Center", Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
1992 - "Out of Africa" - Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery, London, UK
- "Tingatinga Art" - Art Tower Mito, Tokyo, Japan
1993 - "La Grande Vérité, Les Astres Africains" - Nantes Fine Art Museum, Nantes, France
1995 - "Haring K. and Lilanga" "Animals and Spirits of Africa - Pantheon Tama Gallery,Tokyo, Japan
- Mimoca Gallery, Marugane, Japan
- Johannesbourg 1st International Biennal, Johannesburg, South Africa
1996 - Dak'Art - Dakar 2nd Biennal, Dakar, Senegal
- Pyramid Hotel, Furth, Germany
1997 - Gallery Watatu, Nairobi, Kenya
1998 - Goethe Institute, Dar-es-Salaam
1999 - "African Contemporary Art" - Lenz Gallery of Art,Pregassona, Italy
- La Persia srl - Palazzo Carlotti, Verona, Italy
2000 - Shanghai Biennale 2000, Shanghai, China- "Il ritorno dei Maghi" - Palazzo dei Sette, Orvieto, Italy - Casino di Malindi, Kenya- Deposito 6, Verona, Italy
2002 - "Mapico Dance" - MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland
- "Georges Lilanga" Galleria Spazia, Bologna, Italy
2003 - "Latitudes " - Hôtel de Ville, Paris, France
2004 - "Africa Remix - Art contemporain d'un continent" - Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, Germany
2005 - "Africa Remix" - Hayward Gallery, London, UK
- "Arts of Africa " - Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, France
- "African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection" - Museum of Fine Art Houston, Houston, USA
- "Africa Remix" - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
2006 - "Africa Remix" - Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
1. First of all I respect George Lilanga and his work. He was the founder of the style which gave the world great art and relatively stable employment for a quite considerable number of artists here in Tanzania. I don´t regard him as a cheater, I explain this in the point 2, 3 and 5.
2. My aim is to show the many other great Tanzanian artists who have been totally neglected on the many exhibitions and books around the world. In fact they were called fake-doers, they were sent to court. It has gone so far than Agustino Malaba got a visit by policemen who asked him to stop to work. The aim of my articles is to balance the Lilanga story and say: “the Lilanga art was rather a collectively created art while passing the Lilanga studio than the art work of an individual”. Actually the sales were regulated by George Lilanga himself and therefore it is wrong to talk about the other artists as fake-doers. They did what George Lilanga has ordered from them. I want to take away that label from these artist, I don´t want to put a new label on George Lilanga.
3. The art of George Lilanga was performed on different mediums and different materials. George Lilanga could be skilful in some techniques while less adept in another one. The statement of Hendrick Lilanga demonstrates it: “My grandfather was good in cutting calabash while he had problems to accomplish an oil painting”.
4. Obviously George Lilanga did not master the oil paintings and he could not carve the Lilanga style sculptures. I don´t know what could be an accepted academic proof of this statement but my claim is based on the discussions with artists such as: Agustino Malaba, Robino Ntila, Hendrick Lilanga and many others. Also I lead the Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society with around 80 painters and there was and still is a frequent “traffic” between the “Lilanga” artists and “Tingatinga” artists. We have relatives of Lilanga here at Cooperative, Vinta Malaba comes here still today to sell the art, we had Mchisa, Mchimba…etc. The Lilanga matter is discussed in between artists here even without my questioning. And what is more important - very few dealers dissagree with me - some even watch my efforts with relief.
5. The “trademark” Lilanga was created by coincidences rather than by planned efforts by George Lilanga himself, therefore I don´t see George Lilanga as a cheater. It could start like this: the artists in Tanzania work very much collectively. I have seen as many as three artists painting one painting here at Tingatinga Cooperative. It could be so that George Lilanga did calabash cuttings. Then Noel Kapanda painted the oil painting with the similar design as Lilanga did on the calabash. And because it was Lilanga´s design they put the Lilanga sign. Maybe some buyer could even ask them to do this. Then it was all exhibited under Lilanga name and the “trademark” was established. After the exhibition George Lilanga gets more orders and they feel they should sign all artwork made by Noel Kapanda as Lilanga. In fact Kapanda, Malaba and Lilanga took this decisions together, it is not any secret. Later the number of orders, exhibitions and books grew and they were “locked”. The “legend” was created.
6. My research is more passive than active, more hobby than an academic one, driven from interest to show other hard-working artists than to disregard the originator. I respect the academic world, I respect the galleries and all art lovers. If I use the formulation “how the world was cheated” I merely want to draw attention to our lack of knowledge than to look down on anybody. It is not a task of the galleries or art-lovers to double check all facts. Personally I can only say that I was surprised how little interest the art dealers showed to visit the “field”. Most of the “business” was a “parcel” business, not “face to face”. Many mediators were employed. Occasionally some visited the Lilanga studio but that was all. It is why I found it a very interesting subject to write about. I thought simply people will be interested to learn, to read, to hear.
7. I was surprised that some people dealing with Lilanga even didn´t heard about Noel Kapanda, the most important of Lilanga artists. He was Lilanga´s right hand and painted all paintings before other artists joined. Don´t forget: Lilanga did not know how to paint the oil paintings. By some mistake or miracle he was never presented on any exhibition or book here in Tanzania. As you can read later he was a brother of the well known Damian Msagula. He visited Japan on 7 occasions, some of the trips with George Lilanga. He lived in a collective house with Sister Jean and other artists (Ntila, Malaba etc). I was puzzled he was almost unknown to the established art community here in Dar es Salaam (Galleries, Museums, University etc). Though I visited him at his house ca 5 times during 2-3 years he never told me anything about his role in Lilanga art. I was the one who was most surprised when I was told about his role.
8. I am aware the reality is more complicated and I am ready for new surprises, changes, revisions, ideas, theories. To run this website implicates responsibility for the outcomes on the market, exhibitions etc. I have seen that some of the sculptures were already “renamed”. Some even bear two names such as “Lilanga” and “Malaba”. Completely “new” Lilanga artists are “discovered" and sold on eBay such as “Karinto”. So my articles had I hope some effect on making the other artists more visible. But unfortunately I am still alone who is visiting the field. I would be happy if some professional art journalists could take up this story. I don´t know the academic terms, the formulations etc. But I have put down the facts, ideas, theories and collected some information, just enough material for any scholar who wants to get an interesting subject for his/her research.
My name is Daniel Augusta and I have been working with Tanzanian artists for the last five years. I studied physics and environmental sciences at Chalmers University and the University of Gothenborg in Sweden. I have participated in two environmental projects in Kenya and Tanzania before I got into African art. The first photo bellow is showing the Lilanga´s house in his village Mchauru Mwitika. The following photos: As I travel on the local buses, the family of the painters Max Kamundi and Sayuki Matindiko and the last one is from the prof. Elias Jengo´s garden.