Exhibiting life in the city

Friday April 4 2014

By Caroline Uliwa

City Life, an exhibition at Nafasi Artspace in Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam from March 15 to 29, as Tanzanian artists explored the theme of city.

Much of the country’s rural landscape provides beautiful visual interest. However, as fine artists Atsu Numadzi, Cloud Chatanda, Lutengano Mwakisopile, Safina Kimbokota and Nsia Clarke Kibona show in this exhibition, there much to be visually explored in the cities as well.

Atsu depicts people and transport: Women dressed in colourful clothes; working class people trying to get into the daladala (commuter bus); the bodabodas (motorbikes) and tuktuks (rickshaws).

“I’ve painted the Tanzanian lifestyle. You have to be proud of the Tanzanian shape, of the African shape,” Atsu says.

Chatanda was born and bred on the streets of Mwenge in Dar es Salaam. “Sometimes I’d be inside the house and I’d hear my mom chatting with her friends outside and they’d be asking where her son was because they didn’t see him playing outside with the other kids. I would be inside drawing,” Chatanda recalls.

At the exhibition, his work included fun times at the club as well as a girl shedding a tear while gazing into space.

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Nsia, from the US, showcased photographs of people who represent essential parts of the Tanzanian economy, particularly those whose works are often dangerous and many times neglected; a daladala driver, a house help, a construction works cleaner, and a commercial sex worker.

When I asked about the commercial sex worker in this category she replied, “This is the oldest profession in the world and these ladies will use their money to take their children to school, thus putting it back into the economy.”

Nsia is a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Dar es Salaam’s Fine Art Department where she is teaching Hip Hop Culture and researching the use of social media and new technology by socially conscious artists.

Kimbokota has three pieces at this exhibition. “I am not selling my pieces here, as I want to continue working on them for a total collection,” she says. One sculpture is of a hand with a coin in its palm, seemingly begging.

Lutengano had just arrived from Arusha where he is doing a residency. His pieces were unique, made with acrylic and sackcloth on canvas. The works are semi-abstract telling the story of the hustle of city life.

“You can’t live in Dar and not have experienced a daladala ride even if you have a car. I like the antics on a daladala; from thieving hands taking someone’s wallet or phone, to the students who get jostled for space by the conductors,” Lutengano says.

His pieces show the infrastructure crisis in our cities; from heavy traffic to overcrowded buildings built below standards.

The works at City Life cost from $175 to $950; Cloud Chatanda’s Kutafuta Ndoa costs $650 and Atsu’s Rush time costs $800.