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George Lilanga di Nyama photo George LILANGA di Nyama, 1934 - 2005

George Lilanga was born in 1934 in Kikwetu village in southern Tanzania. Like most Makonde youngsters, he learned to carve on soft kassava roots before starting carving the hard black wood (mpingo) under the guidance of Mzee Sumaili.

In 1974 George Lilanga decided to try his chance in Dar es Salaam where he joined a group of carvers. His big break came when he was hired as a watchman at "Nyumba ya Sanaa" now called Nyerere Cultural Centre. Lilanga had the opportunity to show his carvings to the management staff, who recognized his talent and immediately changed his duties. He later added drawing to his repertoire, producing work on batiks, murals, canvas and paintings on goatskin. Today Lilanga's creations can still be seen at "Nyumba ya Saana" on the painted metal gate and on the cement cast decorations around the patio.

George Lilanga at his studioA major step in George Lilanga's career occurred in 1978. A group exhibition organized in Washington D.C. featured 100 of his pieces. The Washington Post compared Lilanga's work to Jean Dubuffet's Art Brut. From then on George Lilanga enjoyed international exposure and a continuous and impressive number of exhibitions in Europe, Japan and the United States. After having won praise from western audiences, the Tanzanian artist has become a representative of the vividness of Swahili paintings. He is currently considered as one of Contemporary African Art's major representatives.

All of this never took him away from his country. It allowed him to contribute to the maintaining of his tribe and at the same time bring outside attention to his culture. Lilanga presents the culture and mythology of his people through canvases swarming with figures, vibrant colours and a rhythmic movement representing Mapico dance, typical of his people.

source: "Tribute to George Lilanga" (2001) - Yves Goscinny; CAAC; "George Lilanga" (2005) - Enrico Sarenco

 

George Lilanga di Nyama

 

 

 

 

George Lilanga "Soldier"

 

 

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