Wonder Workshop, where art meets innovation

By Laura Alioravainen and Marjut Valtanen

Team Leaders, Art in Tanzania (Originally published on Sep 9, 2013)

Artists work on a wood at Wonder Workshop of Oysterbay in Dar es Salaam

An artist works on a wood at Wonder Workshop of Oysterbay in Dar es Salaam

When you pass between tens of little stores and boutiques selling imported shoes and clothes from Asia and all the pirated DVDs salesmen,  you can find a true gem in the streets of Dar Es Salaam. Behind the red gates exists Wonder Workshop. This craft shop was founded in 2005 by Paul Joynson-Hicks and its business model is pure genius.

Starting with three employees Wonder Workshop was making art out of scrap metal. Presently the organization employs 42 Tanzanian nationals with different disabilities. The brilliancy of Wonder workshop lies in the ability to see resources and potential where others so often overlook. Here used products and trash, typically scrap metal, wood, glass and plastic, from the streets get a new life in beautiful forms of greeting cards, jewellery, art, toys and in so many ways that our imagination can’t reach. The employees of Wonder Workshop say their inspiration comes from the nature and beauty of Africa and its wildlife.

Paper making at Wonder workshop

Paper making at Wonder workshop

Every year there is about hundred new applicants to work in Wonder workshop and get off the streets. A valuable asset to the workshop’s development and expansion is collaboration with volunteers and interns from all over the world. Volunteers can use their education and knowhow to help develop new products. Volunteering here is also a great opportunity to work with recycled material, truly test innovativeness with limited resources and learn the unique wonders of this workshop.

For more information, visit the workshop’s website: www.wonderworkshop.co.tz/

Up-and-coming artist on Bahari Beach tells us his story

By Katie O’Reilly-Boyles (Originally published on Aug 26, 2013)

Creating traditional African art on Bahari Beach may sound like the dream job, but 29 year old Musti has been working hard at his artist’s studio, Zamani Sanaa, Swahili for ‘Old Art’ for over a year and a half. Painted using water colours and oil paints on canvas, the Tingatinga style which he uses is very popular with art lovers, so Musti’s workshop is gradually growing as a successful business as he makes contacts, and his studio/gallery becomes more well-known in the area.DSC08458-300x168

Although he has been interested in pursuing his talent for painting for the last six years, Musti wasn’t always going to become a professional painter. His creative ability was evidently always present, however, because he was an artist in a different respect, working as a lyricist and singer as a teenager! As well as his pastimes including sports activities and travelling, art was also a hobby alongside this, but his passion for painting truly blossomed and developed in his twenties.

Although creative arts seem to run in the family, with his brother being an artist and filmmaker as well as a boxer, Musti tells us that his inspiration was himself, as he made the important decision to change from music to art, feeling that this could be a more successful life plan. Quickly and successfully learning how to use strong and vibrant colours to produce Tingatinga at Bagamoyo, where his friend was studying sculpture, his art career was soon launched. Unlike many shops which may have security apparatus or perhaps a security guard to prevent the merchandise from being snatched, Musti insists that he does not need to worry about people stealing art which is in the style of Tingatinga because of its traditional nature, and the fact that even potential thieves would therefore not disrespect it to that extent.DSC08461-300x168

Although Musti runs the business himself, he does have some helping hands around the studio from some boys, who he mentors and wants to teach working skills in order to help them survive in the future. Similarly, Musti, although retaining his individual talents for producing the Tingatinga art, is keen to pass on his expertise, and the joy of expressing through art, to people who want to come to the workshop, hire some canvas and learn how to produce traditional African art.

Admitting that Art in Tanzania has been very helpful and supportive for his career, he also wants his art business to be internationalized – we hope to see more of Musti’s work in the future!