When we caught up with Yael Eytan Maree, founder of Melbourne-based business Kili Tingatinga Art, her story brought nothing short of tears. Having seen first-hand the devastation that poverty brings with it during her travels to third-world countries including Tanzania, the void that Yael felt after returning to Australia was just too vacuous to ignore. Yael decided to create a tangible fair-trade business for the Tanzanian communities by working with their very skilled artisans who specialise in the traditional Tingatinga art – a unique painting style that evokes the wild and exotic landscapes of East Africa. Yael talks to us candidly about her travels to Africa, especially about the kids in the Tanzanian communities that left a deep impact on her life. 

Happiness and gratefulness are the linchpins behind the lives of children in Africa. They have no mobiles, fancy gadgets or even televisions and only have one meal a day but they are grateful for all that they have. “There is something very special and unique that all children share but it is so much more apparent in Africa; this quality they share is happiness. They have so little but still seem very happy, “ reminisces Yael.

Poverty and hunger are daily battles but the beauty of these children is that they do not know they are poor; they are far too busy being happy and grateful. “They are grateful for schooling and cloths on their back and four walls that provide shelter for them. They are grateful for being raised by any family member be it a grandparent, or an aunt as usually their parents are away working. They have infinite imagination to turn the outside into their playground, a tire into a car, a box into a plane, and they have a sense of community where they feel safe and warm”, says Yael.

Yael reaffirms that the guiding principle behind her business is basically “teach a man to fish and he will feed himself his whole life”. With Kili Tingatinga Art placing the Tanzanian communities’ artworks on the global platform, the exceptionally talented artists are finding the recognition they deserve and the financial independence they need for their families, especially for the children. Furthermore, not only are these talented artisans skilled in painting the vibrant scenes of life in East Africa with some amazing high contrast colours, they also make some gorgeous artworks to suit nursery decor but still keeping within the nature theme.

When we asked Yael what she remembers most about these beautiful African kids, she instantly replied – their smiles and their great, spunky attitude. “Their smile is infectious and their willingness to learn and share is endless.”

You can shop for some gorgeous Tingatinga artworks on kilitingatinga.com.au