Monday, 20 June 2011


This Friday, London, will be experiencing a little of Tanzania.
It won’t be your usual conferences by respected executives, diplomats and political heavyweights. It won’t be a representation of athletes, cricket players, and football teams. Not a fashion show with entertainment via singers Lady Di, Ray C or Taarab music. Nothing of the sort. Not even contemporary Bongo Flava of Mr. Two, TID Zeze, Mr Nice, Diamond and traditional music from late Hukwe Zawose, Wananjenje, Twanga Pepeta or the late Remmy Ongala’s Bongo Beat. These are the sort of things we are used to. When such acts visit London Tanzanians normally flock in dozens to cheer and dust off homesick blues.
But painters? A painting exhibition?
I beg your pardon. This is news.
Raza Mohamed was born in August, 1946. He started sketching with charcoal in 1952.

 By the time he was a teenager he had already made up his mind. Art and painting was going to be his life. In 1965, before most of the above stars were born or even working he sent a picture of then founder of the republic President Nyerere to TANU headquarters in Lumumba Street, Dar es Salaam. Since then he has painted Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete. His efforts and talents are such that he has been nominated member of the art committee in the State House, headed by Professor Elias Jengo another prominent painter. No wonder he was amongst founding members of Nyumba Ya Sanaa a venue dearly cherished by the late Father of the Nation. In brief Raza is synonymous with 50 year old Tanzanian history; he is one of the greatest icons we have ever had. We are lucky to have him. 

Raza's "Chai ya Asubuhi" typical and reality of day to day lives of ordinary people ..

But as he told me in an exclusive interview, one rarely makes a living from painting. For over forty years he has illustrated books and designed stamps to supplement his living. Most of these publications have been used in our schools for example the “Adam series” known for teaching English in the 1980’s. Born in Tabora, Raza was educated in Mombasa and grew up around Tanga, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. He has exhibited his works in Kenya, Nigeria (Festac, 1977), USA, Holland, Denmark, Germany plus numerous expositions in several international cultural centres across East Africa.
 He has during his 65 years, beamed images of Tanzania in many places. This is an example of the role and significance of fine art in society.  Alongside other established painters like Professor Jengo, their skill sits alongside Makonde and Tinga Tinga which are highly regarded Tanzanian creations.
Raza with his masterpiece "Children playing Mdaku" painted in Zanzibar, March 2008...

Of all art forms, painting is the most fickle and un appreciated in Tanzania. No wonder Raza Mohamed was in London for so long before anyone realised his presence having paid his own travel in March. I only bumped into him by chance during the Diaspora conference last month. Global Fusion Music Arts set up a meeting with Charlton House a very old respected English venue built during the era of King James 1 in 1612.
Indeed, Mzee Raza’s forthcoming event has attracted intense interest from local media and Radio. It is called “Father and Son” because Raza will be displaying his work with his 40 year old first born, Mohamed Eddy Raza.
After completing Mbeya Tech College in Tanzania where he studied architectural drawing, Eddy went to Eastham College of art and design in London and graduated in East London University.
The two are set to put the name of Tanzania on the map here on Friday 17th June until Wednesday 20th July when the show ends.
Some of the stamps designed by Raza over thirty years ago...

Both are inspired by the realism of Swahili culture and jazz music. Eddy’s work includes images from the international scenery while his dad is mostly about people of Tanzania. Like father, Eddy began sketching at the tender of six. Friday’s opening will also have music from Tanzania, nibbles as well as drinks.
The last time such an event occurred in London was a Tinga Tinga exhibition organised by Zanzibar born, London based, Zarina Jafferji, ten years ago.

Published in Citizen Tanzania Friday, June 17th...


  1. huwa nakubali mchango thabiti wa bwana Raza, Mwenyezi azidi kumpa nguvu ili tuzidi kufaidi kile kitokanacho na sanaa yake, mimi pia ni mchoraji hivyo nafahamu kwa dhati kipi kifanyikacho kupitia kazi anuai za bwana Raza

  2. nimemfahamu mzee raza kupitia kazi zake katika vitabu vya darasa la kwanza mpaka saba has kiingereza, michoro ya musa neema baraka mr and mrs daud, i appreciate the kazi of our grandfather kw moyo wote. mungu ampe maisha mema duniani na mbinguni