Tanzania’s literary culture is primarily oral. Major oral literary forms include folktales, poems, riddles, proverbs, and songs. The greatest part of Tanzania’s recorded oral literature is in Swahili, even though each of the country’s languages has its own oral tradition. The country’s oral literature has been declining because of the breakdown of the multi – generational social structure, making transmission of oral literature more difficult, and because increasing modernization has been accompanied by the devaluation of oral literature.
Tanzania’s written literary tradition is relatively undeveloped. Tanzania does not have a lifelong reading culture, and books are often expensive and hard to come by. Most Tanzanian literature is in Swahili or English. Major figures in Tanzanian written literature include Shaaban Robert (considered the father of Swahili literature), Muhammed Saley Farsy, Faraji Katalambulla, Adam Shafi Adam, Muhammed Said Abdalla, Said Ahmed Mohammed Khamis, Mohamed Suleiman Mohamed, Euphrase Kezilahabi, Gabriel Ruhumbika, Ebrahim Hussein, May Materru Balisidya, Fadhy Mtanga, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and Penina O. Mlama.
Painting and sculpture
Two Tanzanian art styles have achieved international recognition. The Tingatinga school of painting, founded by Edward Said Tingatinga, consists of brightly coloured enamel paintings on canvas, generally depicting people, animals, or daily life. After Tingatinga’s death in 1972, other artists adopted and developed his style, with the genre now being the most important tourist-oriented style in East Africa.
Historically, there were limited opportunities for formal European art training in Tanzania and many aspiring Tanzanian artists left the country to pursue their vocation.