Artists look back at Nyumba ya Sanaa
By Erick Mchome


Many artists remember Nyumba Ya Sanaa with nostalgia, for this was the only place that gave them the opportunity to advance creativity through which they earned a living.

Most of the artists now scattered in different parts of Dar es Salaam and upcountry say between 1980 and early 1990s, the cultural heritage centre accorded them a place to practise their trade and improve their earnings.

However, for Mr Yohana Francis, that is now history. He is one of the beneficiaries of training that used to be offered there but has since moved out due to frustrations.

"It makes me feel so sad talking about Nyumba Ya Sanaa today. It gave many of us a real hope for a better future but that is nolonger there," Francis told the Sunday Citizen in an interview this week.

The Nyumba ya Sanaa was established nearly two decades ago with the support of founding President Julius Nyerere to train artists and offer them sanctuary to promote culture through doing their creative works there as well as staging performances and exhibiting their pieces.

Francis says he was a long time member at the Nyumba ya Sanaa and expresses concern about the current situation of the centre. "It has become an advertising place for a few people while other things done there should not be there in the first place," he stressed.

He said in the early years, the centre had specialists who taught young people keen on different fields of art. Those who qualified were even offered employment and helped nurture more professionals.

According to Mr Francis, who left the centre as a supervisor in hand made paper, young artists and established ones enjoyed the privileges offered at the centre incuding numerous exhibition to display and sell their item.

"That is now a thing of the past. Most of us have since moved out and are struggling on our own. The cultural centre has failed to support local artists as expected," he said, adding that artists who used to operate at the Nyumba ya Sanaa are no longer there due to the lack of market for their works.

A spotcheck at the centre during the week confirmed the fears expressed by Mr Francis. The place has since turned into a busy business centre with, among several outlets, a casino, discotheque, bar and restaurant and private offices. A few shops display sculputures, embroidery and paintings that are owned by those renting the place.

One of the workers at the centre who preffered anonimity as she is not the spokesperson said the artists decided to leave because they were not getting any profit operating from there.

"They have shifted to other places like Mwenge and those who did not get opportunities in Dar es Salaam went back to their villages," said the source. The Sunday Citizen learnt that most of the works of art on display there were fetched from as far as Lindi, Mtwara and other places where there are many sculptors.

Previously Nyumba ya Sanaa�s management used to bring materials which artists used to produce sculptures. That has sinec stopped.

Other artists who do their work at Mwenge area in the city said rarely does the Nyumba ya Sanaa organise exhibitions where they would take their works for showcase and sales.

"Whenever such exhibitions take place we pay some cash for a small space and show our works but that happens once in every year or two," says Mr Eliya Ludovick, 28, one of the sculptors at Mwenge Vinyago.

The artists advise Nyumba ya Sanaa to make the effort to organise as many exhibitions as possible because they help increase the income of many artists�.

"We are now looking for a channel to take our works to Arusha where there are many tourists who can buy our items there instead of staying in Dar es Salaam where the market is not very big," adds Mathew, 25, another sculptor who has been in the job for the past 15 years.

Author: Eric Mchome
Date: 10.07.2009