WHOSE ART DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
"I am quite amused how easy it is to manipulate the art world. For instance that the one of the most famous African artists painted thousands of paintings and sculpted containers of sculptures between 2001 and 2005 when he was on wheelchair and could hardly finish an interviw. In fact he did not know how to paint and how to sculpt. It was done by tens of other artists."
So far I have identified 16 artists who made the Lilanga art. (George Lilanga did not paint nor sculpt anything - he bought the art from other artists). But I guess that there could be in between 20 and 30 artists in total who produced the art signed by George Lilanga. Surprisingly the artists can identify all their (published) works and there are not any disputes in between these artists as it concerns the authorship of the Lilanga signed works.
The artists are still working in similar groups as they have done during the Lilanga period except the fact that many artists shifted from the Lilanga studio either to Malaba or Hendrick´s studio. The reason was that the children of George Lilanga has claimed copyright to Lilanga art and thus created some conflicts. (Mr. Malaba got even a police visit at his studio). The consequences of these conflicts were the isolation of Lilanga studio. Lilanga studio does not communicate with Malaba or Hendrick´s studio at all today. Costa and Bernard told me also they were prohibited by the art dealers to talk to media.
THE ARTISTS AND PEOPLE TODAY. DURING THE GEORGE LILANGA´s BIOGRAPHY THE GROUPS WERE SIMILAR, LESS POLARIZED. ALL ARTISTS EXCEPT HASANI MCHISA WORKED UNDER GEORGE LILANGA´s LEADERSHIP
Tobias Steven (sometimes Stephano)
Costa Ilali (nickname Kapelo)
Noel Kapanda (sometimes Noeli)
Hendrick Lilanga (sometimes Henrick)
Agustino Malaba is one of the most known Makonde masters. He is the holder of the prestigious Zeze award which is given annually to the best artists in Tanzania. But his biggest contribution to Tanzanian art was to create the huge non-informal artist network in Tanzania. Since 1972 when he came to Dar es Salaam from Mchauru Mwitika (Newala region in South Tanzania) he invited huge number of artists to follow him to pursue the art in the big city. Unbelievably it was him who took George Lilanga, one of the most famous African artists and Robino Ntila, the manager of Cultural House to Dar es Salaam in around 1974. Other artists were: Hedrick Likonde, Costa Ilali, Thomas Ntundu, Adija Sulutani, Peter Kalulu, Nyedi Dastani, Andrea Okoti, Hendrick Madebe, Anton Mwamba etc.
His starting point in his art carrier was the significant meeting in 1973 with the American Sister Jean Pruitt who is known in Tanzania mostly for the opening of the Dogodogo Children Center. At that time she organized the artists to collectively work in artist workshop. One year later in 1974 Agustino Malaba moved to a collective house in Upanga with Sister Jean and Mary Rose together with other artists: Raza Mohammed, Juma, Kasian Msola, Oriyo Vincent. Later came to the collective house Robino Ntila, Salum Thulutani, Thobias Mavona and more. Every day at morning the artists went to Samora Avenue to work with art. They were not only sculptors and painters but people making batiks, beads etc. That was basis for the modern Nyumba ya Sanaa (Cultural House).
At that time in 70´s Agustino Malaba was sculpting different designs, not only Shetani. He did also calabas, painted on goatskin, batiks, woodcut, linocut. Since this group of artists got attention, much to thanks to sister Jean Pruitt, there were a number of opportunities to visit foreign countries. Malaba´s first international trip was to Sweden in 1976. He went with Kasian Msola and Mr Wangura from Ministry of Culture. Surprisingly Mzee Malaba showed not only his art but also joined the musical group. He is a great drummer and until now he is a leader of a Makonde dance group in Mbagala, Dar es Salaam. The second trip was to East Germany which was the same. The third trip was to Italy in order to sculpt a door in 1978. But Mr. Malaba he got many more invitation but the problem was financing.
The most interesting is though the connection Malaba has to Lilanga art. In fact it was him who carved all Lilanga sculptures (and his helpers), Lilanga did not know how to carve the fingers on the Lilanga figures, for instance. At the time when Malaba, Lilanga´s uncle stayed in the collective house with Sister Jean, George Lilanga himself lived in Mosko, Kinondoni in Dar es Salaam. It was again Mr. Malaba who invited him to the artists group. First George Lilanga was just a watchman and in the free time he was painting (on batiks, screen etc.).
So Mr Malaba and Mr.Lilanga has worked many years together before George Lilanga became famous. It was due to a number of exhibitions abroad. Somehow the group (Mr Malaba. Mr. Kapanda and Mr.Lilanga) decided that all art works would be signed as Lilanga. George Lilanga only sketched, he did not paint and he did not sculptor the Lilanga art. It was Noel Kapanda and Agustino Malaba. (The research is still continuining and detailed explanations will be published in future)
Gradually when the art became increasingly popular and many orders came from art dealers Mr.Malaba was not able to supply the figures to George Lilanga. His studio was slowly growing. Among the artists in Malaba studio were his son Vinta Malaba, Costa Ilali (Kapelo), Thobias Steven, Francis Regan, Thomas January and many more. His studio is quite known in Tanzania and was visited by Tanzanian officials as well as by many art lovers. Suprisingly – the biggest art dealers with Lilanga art did not visit him.
The only artist in Tanzania who has succeeded in developing the Lilanga art further is Hendrick Lilanga, the grandson of George Lilanga. Many artists tried, for instance Tomas January and in some extent even the children of George Lilanga Costa and Bernard, but it seems that Hendrick Lilanga has advanced most. 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.
The first techniques George Lilanga taught Hendrick were goat skin techniques and water color. Though George Lilanga sketched for Noel Kapanda who then filled color 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 Mchimbi (ca 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 has also created tales to the paintings and he wrote a story book. He found inspiration in the old Lilanga sketch book (see the sketch book) which was a gift from his grandfather. Later he added a story to every sketch. 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. (see www.impressed.cc)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 watercolor and oil painting on the canvas and goatskin. He has definitely surpassed George Lilanga in creativity and number of techniques.
Out of fear for competition the Lilanga´s children Costa and Bernard denies that Hendrick Lilanga is a grandson of George Lilanga and they have even suggested after their father´s death that Hendrick should stop to use the name Lilanga. Firstborn daughter of George Lilanga is Hendrick´s mother (Josephine Georgi Lilanga). But Hendrick has never seen his father till today. He was born on 20th October 1974 in Dar es Salaam.
Noel Kapanda is maybe the least known Tingatinga painter in Dar es Salaam but he should be the best known. Many people doubt that he is the almost 30 year’s younger brother of Damian Msagula. A few know that he was the centre figure in painting the sculptures of George Lilanga. Later it was established that he painted all (at least earlier) works of George Lilanga. His back fall depended on the fact that his Japanese “sponsor” suddenly died and Noel Kapanda found himself “alone”. He was nevertheless invited to Japan 7 times, the first times with George Lilanga. Noel says that when the Japanese gave him (George Lilanga) a brush and colour he couldn´t paint anything. Since then he went to Japan without George Lilanga.
There are many rumours that Noel went to Japan with Lilanga because he painted for him there. Noel Kapanda was one of the first painters who entered the sister Jean´s Nyumba ya Sanaa. He was sent there by a Swedish teacher Ingrid Berlen whom I found after 27 years in Stockholm, Sweden. Noel Kapanda was born in Ndanda (South Tanzania) in 1964 as one of more than 10 children. In 1979 he moved to Dar es Salaam where he painted with Linda, Luka, Peter, Msagula and Haidi. As his first wife passed he remarried and has totally 4 children. Noel Kapanda paints the traditional Tingatinga and the BIOGRAPHY at the African villages. There he gained a very good skill. His paintings has an appeal.
ROBERT KARINTO (Hendrick Studio)
Robert Karinto is son of the makonde master Lidimba Karinto who died in 1992. He was involved with his brother Amandes in production of statues for George Lilanga which reached many galleries and museum worldwide. He lived just several meters from Lilangas house but recently he moved to farm south of Dar es Salaam. He was born in 1969 in Dar es Salaam but soon after divorce he followed his father to Mtwara where his tribe Makonde comes from. There he went to primary school. Then in 1988 they returned back to Kidai in Mkuranga district just south of Dar es Salaam. (so they had this farm and then the house near Lilanga). First he carved the shetani style but when there was rush for Lilanga he carved for him. But he didn´t paint them, it was somebody else… Now Robert Karinto has two children and wife. They live together with younger brother Amandes and Karintos younger brother at Kidai.
AMANDE KARINTO (Hendrick Studio)
He is the brother of Robert Karinto as you see above
BAKARI AMBA (Hendrick Studio)
COSTA ILALI (Malaba Studio)
Costa Ilali called also Kapelo was born in the Lindi district on 5th November 1983. He was brought to Dar es Salaam by his relative Agustino Malaba in 2003 and he was also taught by him the sculpting skills. He has helped to sculpt the Lilanga figures but now he mainly carves Massai, Mashetani. He is single living in Mbagala near his uncle Malaba.
THOMAS JANUARY (Malaba Studio)
VINTA MALABA (Malaba Studio)
JOHN SAUDI (Lilanga Studio)
John Saudi was born in 1966 in a village near Mtwara in south Tanzania. He went to Primary school in between 1977 and 1983. In 1985 he went to a village near Dar es Salaam called Msongola where he started to carve. His teacher was his father Saudi Hassan (He was born in Mosambique). First he carved only the heads of Masai people and later he continued to carve Shetani style and Ujamaa. In 1994 he came to George Lilanga for the first time but he started to carve the Lilanga figures in 2002. He was taught the Lilanga art by Valentino Saudi who was also worked with George Lilanga at that time. Until now John Saudi he lives in Mbagala with his wife and two children.
BAKIRI JOAKIM (Lilanga Studio)
Bakiri Joakim was born in Pangani in the Tanga district. He came to Dar es Salaam in 1996 and his teacher was John Saudi. The interesting fact is that he started to sculpt the Lilanga figures just in 2005 - the same year as George Lilanga passed away. He lives in Dar es Salaam with his wife and two children.
TOBIAS STEVEN (Malaba Studio)
He is working at the Malaba studio but before he worked with Dastani family.
COSTA LILANGA (Lilanga Studio)
He is the son of George Lilanga. In fact now he leads the studio of his father George Lilanga. But he does not paint nor carve. Everything is done by his brother Bernard and other artists who stayed at the Lilanga studio after George Lilanga passed away. (John Saudi, Joakim, Valentino etc.)
Bernard Lilanga is the son of George Lilanga
THABITI MCHISA (Independent - Tingatinga Cooperative)
HALFAN MCHIMBI (Hendrick Studio)
Halfan Mchimbi is born in Dar es Salaam in 1974. He learned to paint in Tinga Tinga style in Arusha from Nurudini (called also Zungu). Mchimbi was sent to Lilanga studio by Hendrick Lilanga because he Hendrick wanted to leave his grandfather and become a freelance artist. George Lilanga agreed to accept Mchimbi in 2002/2003. After George Lilanga died Mchimbi started to paint with Hendrick Lilanga. They are very good friends. Currently Mchimbi works in Arusha for Mama Jaffary, the wife of the passed famous painter Aussi Jaffary.