Edward Saidi Tingatinga

Four years after holding a paint and brush for the first time in 1972, Edward Saidi Tingatinga's pictures were selling well when his beginning career came abruptly to an end: a police patrol shot down the 40 year old Tingatinga in the middle of Dar es Salaam. He was mistaken for a fleeing robber. The tragic loss of her husband after only two years of marriage left Agata Mataka alone to look after their children Daudi and Martina. She had just begun selling more and more of her husband's pictures to tourists.

Tingatinga was born in 1932 in the village of Namocheli in the district of Tunduru near the Mozambiquan border. He was the oldest of four children, and he attended primary school for four years. At 25 he left his home to move to Tanga on the coast near the Kenyan border where he worked on a sisal plantation. After two years, in 1959, he moved to Dar es Salaam to his cousin Salum Mussa who found a job for him as a house boy. Later he sold fruit and vegetables as a pedlar, embroidered and learned to weave baskets and mats.

During this time Tingatinga also decorated a few houses in Dar with traditional motives and colors made of red clay, white limestone and charcoal.

At the age of 36 Tingatinga picked up a brush for the first time and began to paint animals on square chipboards. He was also a talented tarimba player in the music and dance group Sindimba, where he met his wife Agata Mataka.

Especially tourists were interested in Tingatinga's paintings on the 60 by 60 chipboards. Soon after receiving his first commission from the 'National Development Cooperation' he quit his job at the reception of the Muhimbili Medical Centre, the university hospital, and concentrated on painting.
"Tingatinga was always in a good mood", Saidi Chilamboni remembers. He had met Tingatinga during his time at Muhimbili Hospital. "I never saw him fighting or taking advantage of someone. He was always busy playing the tarimba or painting. Art was his life."

Soon Tingatinga had a few relatives helping him, but he also encouraged them to paint themselves. Ajaba, Adeusi, Linda, Tedo and Mpata, Tingatinga's younger brother, became his first students.