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  • Writer's pictureJoia Preciosa

Henry Tayali, The Zambian painter

Henry Nkole Tayali was a Zambian painter, sculptor, lecturer and has been described as Zambia's most famous painter.

Henry Nkole Tayali was born on 22 November 1943 in Serenje, Zambia .

He first started painting while at secondary school in Bulawayo at Mpopoma High School in the late 1950s.

In 1967, he was awarded a Zambian Government scholarship to study at Uganda's Makerere University in Kampala, where he graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Shortly, Tayali returned to Zambia and then started work at the University of Zambia where he joined the Institute of African Studies in Lusaka as a lecturer in African art and later as University Artist. In 1972, Tayali got a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship to study for a Masters in Fine Arts at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, West Germany. Tayali was the first recipient of the DAAD to be selected from south of the equator.After graduating in 1975, he returned to Lusaka to the Institute of African Studies.

Tayali's natural talent was spotted early on by Alex Lambeth, who ran the African Affairs Department of Bulawayo City Council. Lambeth encouraged Tayali to pursue art as a career, and enrolled him on an artwork course.

This led to Henry's first exhibition in Bulawayo at the age of fifteen. In painting he started out as a figurative painter but in his mature years he developed a personal variety of abstract expressionism, which, to him, was highly intense and emotionally charged. In some of his work he transposed his abstract way of painting to the printing table.

Henry Tayali – Destiny

Each painting I do is a stage forward to my next work. But the main thing to remember is that the whole of my life is just doing one big painting, the only difference being that the style in which I execute it varies from painting to painting. Since I was a child I have lived in art and art is my life, and in this field, all I know is determination and simple hard work.”

His painting career took off after that, and using water colors, Tayali begun to produce varied, vibrant, dynamic works.

His professor Gerd Weber said of him, "Of all the foreign students who have worked in my class, Henry Tayali is by far the most talented of them all. His work constitutes a synthesis between the traditional African art, the tools and techniques of the modern era."

Henry Tayali – The Brothers

We can cite his most famous works, the Sunset Road and Destiny. He also produced sculptures such The Graduate at the University of Zambia campus in Lusaka. Tayali held exhibitions in Lusaka, Bulawayo, Aachen, Düsseldorf, London , Alberta, Toronto as well as in Zambia, where a few of his exhibitions were opened by Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia.

Henry Tayali visual art – Zambia

The Henry Tayali Art Gallery was named as a tribute to late artist Henry Tayali, who died in 22 July 1987, Germany .

His works still continue to be exhibited in Zambia and across the world and his influence carries on at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

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