- In 2019 Edward Saidi Tingatinga artwork sold for Ksh5.6million, the highest amount a piece of painting as ever been sold in a Nairobi auction
In these hard economic times, it is inconceivable to a majority of Kenyans that one can spend millions on buying a piece of art. But art lovers can go to any lengths to acquire these artworks, the cost notwithstanding.
Social media was abuzz with varied reactions when it was reported that an untitled painting was bought at Ksh2.13 million at the Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi’s Riara Road. A section of Kenyans wondered why this painting was this expensive and the painter behind the artwork.
Here is the story of Edward Saidi Tingatinga, the man behind the artwork as told by WoK.
Edward Saidi Tingatinga Early Life
The celebrated painter was born in Ngapa, a remote village in Southern Tanzania on the border of Mozambique in 1972.
His father hailed from the Islamic Ndonde tribe while his mother was a Makua. These fusion of cultures early in his life played a critical role in his creative process later in life.
Having no formal education and having led a pastoral life in his rural home, moving to Dar es Salaam in 1955 opened his eyes to new cultures.
According to Contemporary African Art, he worked as a gardener with an English colonialist. This, together with the fact that his mother’s family worked with embassies and NGOs, exposed him to house painters using masonite board and commercial paints.
Edward Saidi Tingatinga Career
When his country gained independence, he took to painting after seeing how artists from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) were selling their artworks to tourists along the roadside.
He progressed to owning his studio where he worked with masonite board and commercial paint.
His imagery was informed by what surrounded him: birds, animals, landscapes and village life. The simplicity of his works gave naivety and freshness to his creations which earned him a name in the world of art.
His star started rising and in 1971 the National Arts Council showcased his work on a stand at the International Trade fair.
The painter’s work went going global. In 1974, the first Tingatinga exhibition was showcased in Denmark at the National Museum of Copenhagen.
Another exhibition was organized in 2010 by thorupART in collaboration with Art Association Koge Bugt that showcased the painter’s oroginal works and new pieces from Tingatinga’s School.
His artwork in the 2023 Circle Art Gallery was the most expensive going for Ksh2.13 million.
In 2019, his painting set a record when it sold for Ksh5.6million in a Nairobi auction. This is the highest amount a piece of artwork has ever been sold in the East Africab region. The painting was of an ‘Elephant eating from the Marula Tree’.
Edward Saidi Tingatinga Death
The painter met his untimely death in 1972 while aged 40 years. A stray bullet from a random shooting cut short his life before his full potential was realized. Interestingly, Edward worked as a nurse besides his work as a painter.
Tinga Tinga died at the age of 40, and the limited supply of his art is bound to drive the value up as time goes by.