Tinga Tinga tales head for unhappy ending as deal with artists sours Art lovers at a Tinga Tinga exhibition in Copenhagen last August. A TV series, a book, branded mugs, plates and puppets have been produced, based on the main characters from the Tanzania art series. Photo/FILE By BERTHA KANG'ONG'OI (email the author) Your Email Message Send Cancel Posted Monday, January 17 2011 at 00:00 Last year was a great one for Tinga Tinga art, some original, unpretentious art from Tanzania that are currently attracting a lot of global attention. There was an exclusive Tinga Tinga exhibition in Copenhagen last August; a piece of Tinga Tinga art returned an impressive $ 51,000 at an auction in Paris last October, then Tinga Tinga tales, a children's animation TV series aired on BBC, as created in Kenya's Homeboyz studios. But these opportunities have not come without challenges. The television production, which is said to be one of the most ambitious animation production in East Africa, has left Tanzanian artists unhappy. Tanzania's Tinga Tinga Artists Co-operative Society (TACS) and UK based Tiger Aspects, the company that produced the series are on the war path. And up until a few days before this last Christmas, it seemed inevitable that the tussle will end in up court. So how did this dream project end up here? Claudia Lloyd, head of animation at Tiger Aspects was travelling in East Africa in 2005. It was in Tanzania that she came across the Tinga Tinga genre of art. She was quite impressed with it. "Finally I met the cooperative's representatives and we started talking." Over the years, the production and marketing of the art has been under Tinga Artists Cooperative Society. Animated dreams At this stage, it was just a dream project. But Claudia believed so much in the potential of an animated film project of African tales that she went ahead with a pilot project in 2006. "The initial plan was to do the entire production in Tanzania but it soon became clear to me that would not be possible," says Claudia. "The internet connection in Tanzania was not reliable and there was more trained animators and editors in Nairobi than in Tanzania. So Nairobi it was." After the pilot project, Claudia returned to Europe to look for funds for a complete series. By the end of 2007, Claudia had successfully convinced BBC in London and Disney World in the US to buy rights to the concept. And so with the necessary funding, she, and a small team from London returned to Nairobi, hired four Tinga Tinga artists from Tanzania, animators and editors, musicians and set up shop at the Homeboyz studios. To get the Tanzania artists, she had to go through their co-operative, TACS. "I went and presented the concept of making an animation film to the leaders of the cooperative. They were all really excited about it and happy that I would be putting their name on an international stage," says Claudia. "We made contracts, written in both English and Kiswahili. I held barazas with TACS and invited them to ask any questions. I left the contract with them for them to seek legal advice before agreeing to sign it. In fact they were so happy with it they asked me to use the name Tinga Tinga, with their blessings, although the initial plan was to call the series "African Tails". And so the contract was signed by not less than five representatives of TACS. Two and a half years down the line, the series has hit the international stage, screening in several countries. The producers have done not only the TV series but also a book, and branded mugs and plates and a line of puppets based on the main characters from the series.'' TACS on the other hand, generally agrees with Claudia about the contract signing procedures, in word but not in spirit. "It's true that Claudia approached us through our co-operative," says Abbasy Mbuka, TACS vice chairman. "And it's true that some of our leaders signed the contracts she presented, but the real situation is that she took advantage of the uneducated leaders. They did not understand all that was written in the contract other than what Claudia herself said. They trusted her that what she said is what was in the contract. But as it has turned out, she did not disclose everything" Mbuka admits that they did not have lawyers to go through the contracts. "We did not really understand how big this project was. Everything was not very clear to us. We had no idea that this would go beyond a small TV production into printing T-shirts, books, mugs and all these other things that have come up on the international stage!" As the screenings continue to attract audiences, TACS feels cheated. Having agreed to a one time settlement of about Tsh30 million (about Sh1.7 million), they feel its too little in comparison to how much the project is making. "It was wrong for Claudia to take advantage of unsuspecting leaders," says Mbuka. "They are using our name Tinga Tinga and broadcasting all over. As artists, we deserve more." And that is the cause of discomforts that the Tanzanian artists are suffering. Efforts to settle the dispute out of court has failed. A meeting scheduled for October 11 last year between TACS and Claudia's team did not resolve anything and so TACS has hired lawyers and is preparing to go to court. But Claudia says that they worked with Tanzanian lawyers in drafting the contract to be sure it was fair. "The fact is that no one owns the name Tinga Tinga," says Claudia. "Neither TACS nor I own it. But we have copyrighted the name Tinga Tinga Tales and that is what we own. The name Tinga Tinga cannot even be copyrighted because no on really owns it." But lawyer Gerry Gitonga of Azania Legal Consultants thinks that TACS has a case going for them. "I think what has been done to TACS is immoral," says the entertainment and media law expert. "Common expression of art, including folklore, can be protected under intellectual property rights. The point is, folklore is property collectively owned by a people. In the case of Tinga Tinga, the late E S Tinga Tinga – after whom the style of painting was named – did not even invent it. He only made it popular by being creative enough to find a way to make some money from what was common practice by the Tanzanian people" A quick search of Tanzania's copyright and neighbouring rights Act (1999), section 24, shows that Tanzania recognises expressions of folklore to include folk tales, folk poetry, production of folk art, in particular drawings, paintings…among many others "The definition of folklore in Tanzania's Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (1999), is intellectual property in the form of heritage passed on in communities by preceding generations to the next, with the expectation that the current generation will maintain, develop it and pass on," says Gitonga. "That is, in my opinion, property that is collectively owned and which they all have to protect. This means the artistes themselves, the associations they operate in and within, all people wishing to benefit from folklore, and the national people are tasked with regulatory oversight obligations over the same" Claudia, on the other hand, says that in regard to the four artists that she hired for the project, and who were based in Nairobi for the two years. "I paid them a decent salary. The paintings they drew, I had commissioned them, and so I owned them. And needless to say, the ting tinga artists only did the basic drawings. We also had Kenyan artists who added on to what the Tanzanians had done. Then we had animators working on what all the artists had done. The final product was really not a one person's effort. It was not a tinga tinga painting any more" Away from the paintings turned cartoon characters, the tales themselves are a collection of folk tales from around Africa. According to Claudia, the folktales were changed to suit the Western audience because they were too brutal. "But we retained the essence of the tales" "Depending on how Tanzania handles this, and whichever way it goes, this case will offer a good season of education in Africa about the value of culture, intellectual property and cultural expressions, including folklore," says the lawyer. "Africa, and Kenya in particular, is obsessed with tangible property like land. But we need to switch perceptions and think more innovatively. Africa as a continent has so much to offer in terms of content and fresh original ideas" Concluding on the Tinga Tinga case, Gitonga says: "there still remains the dispute as to whether TACS, in this case, represents the community. And if so, who then should benefit from a project like the Tinga Tinga tales" The entire series is made up of 52, eleven minutes cartoon series, made for four to six year old. The project took a total of two and a half years to complete. Africa Review*- Home Business Daily: *- Politics and policy*|Tinga Tinga tales head for unhappy ending as deal with artists sours MY TAKE I am happy TACS did something to stop the Tingatinga tales project! While Ms Claudia claims Dar internet connection is lower, there is something sinister about that and there wouldn't have been benefits to our Artist rather than benefits to Homeboys! This westerners should stop being mean they should think of helping the communities that own the art and not looking at only profit making! Imagine the TACS were to get Tshs 30 million of the potentials million of US dollar the series was to make with Disney! That's theft! BTW i was one of the whistle blower and i feel happy someone heed my call wrote this on 30th January 2010 The sad tales of Tingatinga and wasted Marketing window for Tanzania While our country Tanzania is positioning itself to tap a potential tourists market at World Cup 2010 in SA at a whoopy cost of about US$ 6 mio.for hosting a team that would station in Tanzania during the event, we should question the merits of that huge sum of money to be spent for an event that won't last more than a month! Try to look at things in this way, if you carry out a Cost Benefit Analysis of that risky to be undertaken marketing campaign, there is no any tangible results that are to be gained at the anticipated surge of people who are to be in SA to watch soccer as the main reason! Why i say this? Here are few thoroughly thought points SA, has shown strong intentions to keep the tourists at home through having put a number of entertainment centers, moreover SA has what it takes to keep the soccer fans at bay from visiting Tanzania, Kruger National Park, the biggest in Africa has what it takes to flex the muscles against the Serengeti and woo the budget tourists to stay at home who after all are soccer fans foremost! Logistics, while the cost of a flight from Dar-J'burg is more than what it cost from NY to London, the authorities have shown no intentions to subsidize the costs so as to ship those interested to see our tourists sites Weather, there won't be a team that will want to put a camp in Dar and jeopardize it's chances to win among the big top ten countries, I don't believe if any of US, Germany, France, Japan, England team will be ready to take that risky path. The weather that would have been compatible with that of SA would have been that of either Arusha, Kilimanjaro or Southern Highlands that don't have facilities! World have just come out of recession (including those high spenders we are targeting!), the time is so wrong to undertake that massive cost to market ourselves, other options that last should have been considered instead This keeps me wondering whether our Ministry of Sports, culture and information has advisors on this ill feted idea. this ministry that has decided to be a propaganda ministry and defending the interests of ruling Government at any cost, of recently being shutting a highly respected news paper after exposing the exam scandals has nothing of what takes to market Tanzania. Together with our Ministry of tourism and our Tourist Board should have consider of Tingatinga Art instead. why i say this For those of you who are painting lovers like me, would agree with me immense potentials that could have come with developing that piece of tanzanian creativeness that our so claimed creative neighbours are now benefiting! Think of this when the Lion King movie budgeted at US$ 45 mio. created a revenue of over US$ 783,841,776 plus marketing the EA region (since there is no great migration other than that of Tanzania and Kenya) though our same neighbours claimed the merits on their country beside the fact SA gained most since the movie production was undertaken there. Think of movie Madagascar, produced at a cost of US$150 mio. made around US$602,308,178 profit plus a massive marketing window for the country bares the name, todate that country keeps getting a media exposure plus a revenue on top! Having realized the marketing opportunities that come with such animated movies for kids, our neighbours that are fond of creativeness prestige took a short cut as usually and claimed ownership of the art and colluded with BBC to produce children animation series that will rake in millions if not billions of US$... at the cost of motherland that gave birth to truly son of this piece of art that today fetches billions of dollars without himself being recognized apart from just a name for the art (won't be suprized if our great neighbours have patented the art already just the same way as Malaika song that was composed by a Tanzanian living in Nairobi during that Socialism era back home! so is the story of Makonde Art now is claimed to be from Wakamba) while our authorities are quiet sleeping over and seeping on even the donor aid money that they love to do! Why do i think the US$ 6 mio. should have instead being spent on Tingatinga project? Here are my few reasons Creating kids animation movie would not cost even a US$ 1 mio., if at all it takes our thieves brothers'(Home boyz)path? With a potential to impact people memories for countless years to come! It would have created employment that would have been sustainable to our numerous Tingatinga schools that so far have not got a helping hand from our darling Government! Rumours have it around 50 people are current at work in Nairobbery producing numerous episodes for over 12 series that are to be aired! Mind you plus name Kenya as a maker of that piece of Tanzanian art that will add an insult and haunt us to death! Massive Marketing opportunity that words can not explain Japanese are number one fans of this art; cherishing the value the art has conquered their heart, followed with Germans plus other western countries. The UK would be added easily with the Tingatinga series that are to be produced having in mind the series is watched by the current young and next generations to come (take Tom & Jerry as a case study)! Revenue potentials; Disney World in Florida has Serengeti park plus Kilimanjaro and wonder if at all the Government has ever thought of getting royalties from this? If that not possible then even marketing Tanzania instead of Kenya could mean massive money towards our tourism industry! The government would honor creativeness among the citizens, Tingatinga project would have created a Picasso of Tanzania, that kids will love to emulate as a nation icon hence stimulate a sense of self-motivation among the artists if not other creativeness in other fields I should ask HE Kikwete if at all reads this forum to consider those numerous opportunities this country sleep on victimization trap since i as an artist is sick of seeing this sort of theft this land blessed of creative sons and daughter is a recipient of! Moreover the opportunities this land keeps wasting and let them fall into demerited hands! Please take legal actions to protect the work of our artists from these greedy people! Numerous art exist out there in this cradle of creativeness likes of Atanas and Henna painting that if well used there won't be a need of spending that huge amount of money to market Tanzania. As for now, just give a half of that $ 6 mio. to Tingatinga institutions and in collaboration of our IT experts, i tell you we will have a movie that every kid in the Western World would live to love to watch plus putting pressure on the parents to send them to a really place that Said Tingatinga envisioned during his lifetime! i.e. Serengeti and Selous.