Tanzanian Painter

Agnes Mpata


Agnes Mpata was born 1968 in Dar es Salaam. She lived with her mother, but also her uncle Tingatinga took good care of her. But he died when I was still a small child. At the age of 11 she went to Nairobi, Kenya, to live with her uncle Mpata. Simon Mpata was also a Tingatinga painter and financed Agnes' school fees by selling his paintings.


Although she passed the exam for Highschool she was not able to start school since her uncle had died and Agnes had to stay with her aunt, who could pay for a training as secretary.

My aunt was also a painter, probably the first woman who painted in Tingatinga style. And I helped her in technical things like putting the backgrounds or painting the many leaves of a tree or framing her paintings. She didn't want me to help because she didn't want to keep me from learning. But I passed my secretary exam and worked for two years in this job, before I returned to Tanzania. While waiting for a job at a bank she started to work for the Tingatinga Cooperative, first as a secretary, but very soon also as a painter.

Some customers were very astonished to see a young woman paint and some bought my works. One of them was Christine Hatz, who took some small paintings back home to Switzerland. One year later she invited me and Mohammed Saidi to exhibit in Switzerland. I quit my secretary career and wanted to become a painter. Since then Agnes Mpata got more and more reputation as a painter und was invited to show her artwork in Switzerland, Austria, South Africa and China. She can paint almost every plan, but she likes especially to paint fruit and Maasai in a row. Since she is such a careful and accurate artist she was choosen to paint the walls of the Oncologic station Of Muhimbili Children Hospital in Dar es Salaam together with her young colleagues Maulana Saidi and Shaha Abass.

Agnes is married and has three sons. She loves to tell stories to children and started to collect and write down traditional Tanzanian tales. She is author of the picture book "How the Animals Got their Colours", together with illustrator Issa Thabit.