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Once there was a man called Eduardo S. Tingatinga. He was born in Tanzania and during the 1960s he established an art form that became associated with his new homeland, Tanzania. Today, "Tingatinga" is the Tanzanian term for this form of art, known mostly around the world.
Over the years, knowledge about Tingatinga has spread to other parts of Africa and Europe, as well as to other English-speaking parts of the world. Tingatinga is a concept that development assistance workers and African tourists alike have been drawn to, but which, over time, has lost its uniqueness. In the past, Tingatinga art could be sold on its name alone, but increasingly other works of art are being presented as "Tingatinga" as well.
From a purely technical standpoint, Tingatinga art can be defined as painting on masonite using bicycle paint. The paintings can be as small as ceramic tiles, while the biggest paintings are no doubt hanging above thousands of family room sofas. Market limitations have prevented artists from working in larger formats. A majority of the buyers have been foreigners wanting to transport the images out of the country by airplane.
From that perspective, Tingatinga is a genuine form of "airport art" - cultural art from developing nations that has been adapted to the special requirements of long-distance travelers, including size. Also the choice of motifs in Tingatinga art has often been adapted to the purchaser's expectations of what should be included in an African painting.