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Hasnain Raza Mohamed

“An artist does not see things as they are; he sees them as he is.”

Raza is described as a “National Treasure” in Tanzania some consider him as the Picasso of Tanzania. As one of the pioneers in the local art scene, his journey dates back to 1952. Raza has done it all from painting and doing the illustration in Tanzanian school books, to designing national postal stamps. Beyond borders, he is a well-renowned artist.He has participated in a number of art exhibitions in east Africa and many countries including Germany, USA,Denmark, France and Nigeria. He has painted every President since Tanzania’s independence in 1961.

As a young boy, his first images were influenced by images of cowboys, red indians, and western actors on chewing gum packets. These are what initially sparked his passion for art. This enthusiasm developed more and more as he grew up and although he tried other occupations to play it safe, his main focus always remained fixed on painting. Art was always in his DNA.

Raza Mohamed also known as Mzee Raza is a self taught artist born in Tabora Tanzania in 1946. He was educated in Mombasa, Kenya. In response to encouragement of his art teachers, he began a lifetime dedication to developing his artistic talent. Mzee Raza never received any formal art training however, he had the opportunity to attend workshops where he learned a number of techniques that assisted in developing his skills. 1997 was a turning point for him, he started the Raza Art Gallery and since then he has never looked back.

Oils, pastels, watercolors, ink, acrylics and pencil work - Raza Mohamed has made a mastery over all these forms, though the first three are his favourites. As for themes , he captures the ordinary day to day life in Africa and transforms it to an extraordinary visual representation of the culture which explains why Raza’s paintings bear the mark of a genius.

Raza ought to be brimming with pride. But the man whose idol is Picasso, and who is now a Picasso to many budding artists, remains unassuming and a simple man, a pleasant smile never leaving his lips. Such is nature if a true artist, to whom, though a painter by profession, art is not the bread, but the wine of life.

Critique from the Gallery

Mzee Raza’s portfolio consists of a great number of abstract work as well as figure paintings, that exhibit his interest with the human form and his intent on experimenting with its representation. His abstract work is distinct in his use of earthy colors with a sheen like quality, that almost looks metallic/ bronze in nature due to its tarnished appearance, rough brushwork and texture. That gives off a ornamental/decorative quality that is further accentuated by the distorted figures and features of the subjects he paints, that shifts from more definitive picasso-like geometric shapes to more obscure renderings that resemble Willem de Kooning’s Abstract expressionist work. Which demonstrates Raza’s affinity for pushing the envelope when it comes to experimenting with shapes, colors, and gestural marks to achieve a desired effect.

Selected Works


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