George Di Nyama Lilanga was born in 1934 in the village of Kikwetu, near the Mozambique-Tanzania border. He was a member of the Makonde tribe - a group well-known for their rich sculptural traditions and ritual dances. Like many Makonde youngsters, Lilanga was taught carving and sculpting - learning to carve first on soft cassava roots before progressing onto hard African blackwood (mpingo). In 1972, Lilanga moved to Dar-es-Salaam to try his luck as a carver and became associated the following year with Nyumba ya Sanaa (The House of Art - in Kiswahili), a gallery and cultural centre established by local artists. By 1978, Lilanga had participated in his first international exhibition to critical acclaim. Of the 280 works on view at the Washington, DC show, 100 of them were by Lilanga.
Lilanga's work draws upon his Makonde heritage, presenting the culture and mythology of his people through canvases filled with mythical figures and vibrant colours. His works are also animated with a sense of humour and serve as a social critique on comtemporary African culture. Lilanga's works can be found in many private collections and have been exhibited widely internationally.
George Lilanga died in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania in 2005.