Tanzanian Cultural Messages on Wall Murals in Dar Es Salaam

By Mark Wiens 25 Comments

These murals were commissioned by the Social Marketing and Communications for Health in Tanzania, and painted on the outside walls of a busy walking street near downtown Dar Es Salaam.

Without the help of a Tanzanian worldview backing your thoughts, some of the messages may seem unclear or even strange. Some of these messages are universal while others are focused on specific issues.

Empty walls shouldn’t be left barren as an eyesore, they should be used to display colorful art by the community targeting difficulties or struggles that prevail.

paintings-in-dar

kuepuka makundi mabaya – “avoid bad company”

party-dar-tanzania

acha tamaa epuka wishawishi – “stop with greed and resist wishful thinking”

Dar Es Salaam Wall Mural

tanzania-paintings

kuacha kukeketa watoto wa kike – “stop cutting female girls”

According to the World Health Organization, 92 million females in Africa are living with female genital mutilation. There are zero health benefits to the procedure, but many severe resulting complications. I won’t go any further, but if you would like more information you can start here.

Lessons in Dar Es Salaam

kusubiri – “waiting on you, patience”

dar-es-salaam-mural

zingatia masomo na kuacha mawazo potofu – “concentrate on your studies and stop with the misleading opinions”

mural-tanzania

komesha rushwa ya ngono – “stop with the sex bribing”

dar-lessons

ridhika an uliya naye – “be content with what you have”

cultural-lessons-dar

kuwa na msimamo – “taking a stand”

tanzanian-wall-painting

tumche Mungu – “exalt God”

hospital-paintings-dar

sima! acha kusoma au kuangalia vitabu vinavyochochea ngono – “Stop! reading or looking at books that promote sex”

african-paintings

paintings

mgonjwa apatiwe damu iliyopimwa – “a sick person getting a blood transfusion that is rationed (AIDS infected blood) – getting little blood when you need more”

hopital-scenes

komesha kuwathiri wajane – “STOP inheriting widows”

Inheriting widows, (same thing as bride inheritance, or Levirate marriage) is where a widow is forced or obligated to re-marry the brother of her deceased husband.  The cultural practice in some parts of East Africa is complex and I don’t begin to know all the complications.  If you are interested in more information this article is pretty good.

Stop Inheriting Murals

The messages on these paintings are written bold and clear, to be noticed. Some are applicable worldwide, while others pertain to very local cultural issues.

What do you think?



25 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Hedwig

    4 years ago

    Great documenting of Dar street art…

    Have you seen this rendition with the wachata crew?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-wE-ujD_CI

  • Rebecca

    6 years ago

    Some of them are pretty confronting, and highlight key issues that are rife in parts of Africa. The artwork is certainly a way for it to get noticed – and hopefully make the messages stick.

  • Glen

    6 years ago

    These murals are a really fascinating insight into the culture – great photos.

  • Rease

    6 years ago

    Thanks for compiling all these. I really love using graffiti as a art and way of promoting a message.

  • Mark Wiens

    6 years ago

    @Cathy: Thanks Cathy, I think the bright colors and exaggerated images really help to portray the message.

    @Neha: No problem, thanks for checking it out.

  • neha

    6 years ago

    So interesting! Thanks so much for the translations.

  • Cathy Sweeney

    6 years ago

    The murals are very colorful and beautiful. Most importantly, some of them are sending powerful messages. I hope they will have a very positive impact.

  • Mark Wiens

    6 years ago

    @Laurel: You are right, addressing issues straight out in the open and making bold statements.

  • Laurel

    6 years ago

    I love this idea! What a wonderful way to combine art with a message and great to see that they’re not shying away from sensitive topics either.

  • Mark Wiens

    6 years ago

    @Robin: Thanks for checking them out!

    @Inka: Yes, wall murals serve a great dual purpose, they are forms of advertisements that can be quite effective.

    @Jillian: Many cities in Africa are so colorful and art is a big part of their lives, and yes, often showing cultural aspects of life through art.

    @Todd: No problem!

    @Kelly: Cool, that’s 1 of my favorites as well. Where else would they have a picture like that to go with those words?

    @Norbert: You are right Norbert, on a buy walking street in Dar Es Salaam, I’m sure they have a positive effect!

    @Jade: Yes, they are actually just down the streets from where my parents live, so I 1 day with hundreds of people looking at me, I just decided to take pictures of all of them. This post is probably only about half of all the murals!

    @Grace: Yes, very direct messages and “eye opening.” That’s a great point, reading a little deeper into these messages, one can notice some of the backgrounds of these lessons…and that puts things into perspective.

    @Miss Footloose: Yes, the anti AIDS campaigns are all around Africa as well, using a similar tactic of marketing. I those types of advertisements have great potential.

  • Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane

    6 years ago

    Wonderful art! Great way to beautify the buildings and offer a message at the same time. When I lived in Ghana huge billboards offered messages about how to not get HIV/AIDS. Very graphic and funny.

  • Adam

    6 years ago

    Very interesting. I always love looking at and photographing street art around the world, and this is very fascinating knowing that there is a really good message with it, not just graffiti. Very interesting post, thanks!

  • Grace

    6 years ago

    Wow, some of these messages are eye-opening like “stop cutting female girls”, “stop with the sex bribing” and “a sick person getting a blood transfusion that is rationed – getting little blood when you need more”. It really makes me feel lucky to to have grown up in an environment that these were not an issue!

  • Jade

    6 years ago

    I love murals and it’s so awesome that you found so many in the same area.

  • Norbert

    6 years ago

    Wow, they are being very open about these messages. I believe some of those have a strong message and are doing a good job at least by spreading it.

  • Kelly

    6 years ago

    Wow, this is awesome. Really interesting to see the messages they are promoting. My favorite is “Be content with what you have.” The message is great, and that image is awesome!

  • Todd | Todd’sWanderings

    6 years ago

    Loved them, thanks for sharing!

  • Jillian

    6 years ago

    Really interesting murals. I love the way signs and paintings tell the cultural story in Africa. What a great post!

  • inka

    6 years ago

    Impressive messages easily understood and, maybe even followed. A fantastic idea to use bare walls for this purpose.One of the most educational blogs I have read lately as I had no idea about this form and use of street art.

  • robin

    6 years ago

    Well done for documenting these.

    • Magda

      6 years ago

      Hi, thanks for this documentation, it’s an important and very interesting element of culture and art. I’m happy that Tanzanians use their own methods to force people to think about main problems…