Tanzanian-born artist Sungi Mlengeya’s passion for art sparked at a very young age, at their home in Serengeti where she and her sister would go through the craft pages of their mother’s Woman’s Value magazines looking for something interesting to make. Living inside a national park with electricity only available in the evenings, they would spend all day cutting paper and making crafts in their designated former storage room turned craft room.
But like many other renowned artists, Mlengeya didn’t pursue art at University, but rather graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance before taking on a banking career which she later quit in order to embark on a full-time career in art.
“My portfolio mostly consists of dark faces in minimal shades of black and browns against perfectly white backgrounds,” says Mlengeya. “I chose to paint black people to celebrate black ethnicities, to express the beauty in blackness, to bring forth pride and cement an unmovable black spirit.”
Painting mainly with acrylic, she finds inspiration in photographs and shares both her personal and borrowed experiences through her artworks. A lot of her paintings focus on women. “I focus on women as representatives of their societies, since throughout history; the central role of women as life bearers, nurturers, caretakers and educators has ensured the stability of their communities,” she explains.
Through her subjects, Mlengeya narrates her ideas, beliefs, and experiences from what she observes. This results in a diverse range of topics and paintings which are simple, minimalist, with an interesting use of negative space. “The minimalist simple backgrounds create high contrast and put emphasis and attention on the subjects,” she says.
Check out some of her work in the gallery below.