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