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Born in the Ndanda village, Masai District, of Yao tribe parents. Damian Msagula started his Primary Education in Lindi.

His father had six children, and one day, he told Msagula that it was so difficult to provide for the large family, that he had to leave and find his own way of living.

"He did not do this because he disliked me. He did it because he thought of me as an obedient, and disciplined child, and he thought these qualities would stand me in good stead in the stormy world outside my home. He was right.”

Damian Msagula then spent some time as a musician, organising a succession of bands, the Uhuru Jazz Band, The Black Hammer Boxing Band, and the Skylarks. “

"I was given an award by the Bishop , and our bands became quite famous in Mtwara, and Lindi. I was then only fifteen years old."

Damian Msagula has led a very varied life. Very few Tanzanians can claim to have founded two villages like he did, one at Kwaa Msisi at Korogwe in the mid sixties, and one Kwa Raza, near Mlandizi. As has happened many times in his life, he got into arguments with the local administration, and because he was averse to conflict, he left. Both villages still exist today.

In 1972 Msagula was selling fruits and vegetables from the Tanga region at Morogoro Stores and came in contact with the Tingatinga artists. The next year, Damian Msagula joined them and started painting. A couple of years later, he left the group to work on his own. In 1974 he trained PETER Martin whom he had brought with him from Tanga. Peter will later move to the Village Museum.

Msagula had no nuclear family of his own, and had almost no contact with his extended family. He never married and didn't have any children.

Problems inside his own family started even before independence. Damian had an uncle who was a member of the colonial police force. When TANU (political party pro-independence) was recruiting and Msagula joined, his uncle never forgave him. “If I’m seen together with you, I’ll probably lose my job,” he said.

After independence, Msagula was active in the "Ujamaa" policy of return to the village, self-reliance and solidarity.

Damian Msagula was fortunate enough to make long lasting friendships with several people who are deeply involved in the art world of Dar es Salaam, especially Rifaat Pateev, the Director of the Russian Tanzanian Cultural Centre. Rifaat was first attracted by the quality, and originality of Msagula’s art. He had this to say:”Among all the Tanzanian artists whose work I have seen, Damian stands out because of his individuality." Rifaat has also single handedly borne the burden of caring for Damian since his stroke in November 2003.

The colours in Damian Msagula's paintings are always in perfect harmony. This was so important for him that at one time, he even produced his own colours from roots and plants.

From the very naive renderings of the beggining, Msagula has developed a truly unique style centered on the village as the root of african culture and the respect of the ancestors and their spirits.

Today Damian Msagula is a central figure in Tanzania's art scene.


source: "Tinga Tinga, the popular paintings fom Tanzania", Y. Goscinny, "Art in Tanzania 2000", Y. Goscinny and "Damian Struck Down", Christopher Elkington in The Mirror

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