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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Tanzania artists go metal
By Daniel Dickinson
BBC, Dar es Salaam

David Kigozi with a sample of a baobab metal sculpture
Mr Kigozi says Ugandans have mastered the metal-work trade

Artists in Tanzania who are looking for new ways of making money, are being taught artistic metal-working by their peers in East Africa.

There are no artists in Tanzania working in metal at the moment, but that is set to change following a visit by two experienced metal-work artists from Kenya and Uganda.

Culturally, it is also very important as it gives Tanzanian artists another way to express themselves
David Kigozi

They have been teaching the techniques of metal artistry in an attempt to encourage more artists to take up the trade.

It is a noisy and sometimes backbreaking business being a metal artist.

Heavy metal

Selemani Mwinyi, a banana leaf or banana paper artist is part of the team of Tanzanian would-be metal artists learning how to sculpture a baobab tree out of metal.

He tells me that metal is a good material because one can make very imposing sculptures.

"It may sound strange but folding metal is a bit like folding paper which is what I normally do. But instead of glue I am using a welding machine," says Mr Mwinyi.

However, Mr Mwinyi, who has worked at a car mechanics before, says that it is harder to get used to metal-work tools because they are very heavy.

It takes a certain amount of practice to wield a welding machine and harness the hammer work, two of the basic techniques in metal artistry.

Obstacles

But the greatest obstacle which Tanzanian artists have to overcome is the price of the equipment.

David Kigozi, the Ugandan metal artist holding this workshop says although the equipment is expensive, the investment is worthwhile.

Selemani Mwinyi
Mr Mwinyi says metal-work is a heavy and expensive trade

"Artists who want to begin working in metal should think in terms of selling a couple of works to fund one piece of machinery and so on until they have all the equipment they need," Mr Kigozi says.

In Uganda and Kenya, metal art does have something of a history, but given all the obstacles artists face, what is the point of bringing it to Tanzania?

"From a commercial point of view it makes sense as there are more types of art for people to buy and culturally, it is also very important as it gives Tanzanian artists another way to express themselves," says Mr Kigozi.

It is not clear if there is a market for metal art in Tanzania, and tourists, who are the biggest buyers of local art, will want to take home only small gifts.

But this does not discourage Mr Selemani and his fellow workshop artists who vow to continue to hammer, weld and grind to promote the new trade thanks to the joint venture with the best metal workers in East Africa.




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