My name is Aggrey Masha, I am a painter. I started painting since I was about ten yrs old. At that time I was making colours using flowers and plants, myself, [and] I was using them to paint on paper. After...I started primary school, I was able to buy some coloured pencils and water colours. I [taught] myself and then when I [got] to secondary school, I [took] fine arts subjects [and] was able to mix colours, paint better paintings. I have been participating in exhibitions since I was very young. When I completed Form 4, I participated in a world food day drawing competition (in 1989) organized by FAO, it was called World Food Day drawing competition. When I completed secondary school, I decided to go to the College of Business Education because I also like business, but when I completed my course, I [wanted] to continue painting. So I continued teaching myself, attending many workshops and exhibitions. I was improv[ing] day after day. I [started] to take the profession serious[ly] from 1991. From 1991, I decided to be an Artist full time. And from there, I have managed to sell my paintings abroad. I have [attended] many workshops. There are some famous artists in Tanzania who have helped me, for example Prof. [Elias] Jengo from the University of Dar es Salaam and Dr. Masanja. I have been with these people for many years, [they] taught me how to improve my work. [Art] I can say is part of my life. I like to do it always. Wherever I am. Even at work. At home. I like to do it. I started with very realistic paintings when I was very young. But I am changing day to day. Now I am not doing realistic. I am doing abstract impressionism, using oil colours, acrylic, pastel, water colours. So I’ve managed to use all media.
Was there a moment or something that made you want to be an artist?
I [wanted] to be a painter because I like colours. Something which is very colourful, I like it. For example, Mount Kilimanjaro (I was born in Kilimanjaro region) in the sunset, Mount Kilimanjaro becomes very colourful, very [beautiful]. It attracts me, the colours, when I see something attractive like that I try to paint it, to mix [different] kinds of colours and make it [...] In fact, automatically. Automatically from nowhere, I decided to be a painter by looking at [beautiful] things, like the Ngorongoro Crater, the Zebras, I like to [create] something which is beautiful. So there is nothing else that made me want to be a painter [but that].
Where do you paint?
I paint at home. I mostly paint at home […] Outside the house or inside. Even when I am here [at the centre] I can paint outside, I can [mix] colours and paint outside. But I need a place which is quiet.
What is your routine? Do you paint everyday or when inspiration comes to you?
I paint everyday. Everyday, but sometimes it happens that, may be I can paint [for] a week everyday and may one day or two days I don’t paint. It depends on how I feel. If I don’t feel good, may be I’ve got problems, Lots of things to think [about]. [I don't paint]. It happens not always, may be once a week, or twice. But I like to paint everyday. When I wake up I paint at home, when I am at work I paint[...] In fact, I like to paint in the mornings and evenings. When it is cool. In the morning, the mind is fresh. I can paint very peaceful[ly]. But in the afternoon, may be from 12 up to 3, that is not [a] good time. But in the evenings it is a very good time for me to paint.
Can you name may be two or three works of art that mostly inspire you to do your paintings?
I like paintings by Prof. Jengo. I have been with him [for a long time]. Since I started painting. I like how he mixes the colours. And Dr. Masanja, though he is late now […] I like how [Prof. Jengo] mixes the colours, he gets very attractive colours. Just the colours, not the subject. As I said [before] I like the colours [...] when I do abstract [...] in the colours you can get the message. I put the message in the colours.
Tell me about your artistic development, your evolution as an artist
At the beginning I was doing very realistic paintings. Like photographs. I continued doing that for a long time. I [received] a lot of orders from people. Some asked me to do their portraits, to enlarge their [photographic] portraits, to [turn them] from black and white to colour. But the time came when I [got] very bored [doing this]. I felt that I’ll be happy if I do what I like, from my heart. So I decided to create my pictures from my heart […] and that was when […] I started to create my style of painting. I was bored do[ing] [realism]. I wanted to do what I feel from my heart […] so I moved from realism to impressionism [and now] abstract [impressionism] […] I like smooth things. I tried Cubism but [...] I was not comfortable with [it's] sharp[ness]. I like something smooth [that I get with impressionism].
What do you think of the Art Scene in TZ, if there is such a thing?
Yea there is. I can say that there art galleries. We have [a] few art galleries, like La Petita Art Gallery, [where] you can see [Art] by Tanzanian artists. There is [the] Mawazo Art Gallery, Colour Centre. And this, Wasanii Art Centre. This is different from other galleries. You know, other galleries they sell [artists’ work] and take commissions, may be 30% or 35%. But [...] Wasanii Art Centre is a place where artists can display their works [and] when they sell [something], they don’t give any commissions. Because in the beginning of this, we donated our art works and we brought two art works each and [when] they were sold, 100% [of the revenue] went to the centre, and the other piece 80%. And the artists who donated, are the ones who are members of this art centre[...] So this is something different.
Pick three of your paintings and talk a little bit about what you were trying to convey in each of them
[Here] I was trying to explain that […] at the beginning of the earth…I can imagine that there was nothing…everything was black. But later on, the light started, and [this shows that], day and night together. [The colours convey that] night is going to be finished, day is coming now.
'The Beach' (2009)
I just like to show our country. [In this painting] you can see a coconut tree and it is showing […] our beautiful coast. Many artists these days don’t paint the beach, I don’t know why. We have beautiful beaches, we have Coco Beach, we have Msasani Beach. So I was reminding them that we have beautiful beaches. We can go and enjoy there. And you can see [in the painting] two people enjoying our beach [...]I did it in an impressionist style because this has been done realistically many times, it is boring me. Something that is very realistic is boring. I wanted to put it in a [different], more attractive way.
'The Harvest' (2008)
This reminds me of home, where I was born. I was born in Kilimanjaro region. We plant a lot of bananas, plenty. So I just [wanted to convey] our activities in that area, that we have […] these activities going on that are different from other places, like Dar es Salaam you can’t do these [things]. I have done it, in impressionistic style, that is my style.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a painting, called 'Welcome to Ngorongoro, and I just started on another one, 'The Market', but it's still in my imagination, it has not yet made it to the canvas.