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J Moncada: Female Artist Seeking to Influence Changes Through Graffiti

She says female artists face challenges in Tanzania as galleries prefer artists with big names and recognition.

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Dar es Salaam. The football field behind the Muhimbili Primary School in the centre of Dar es Salaam is huge and barren, with dirt and sand covering the grounds. 

Brown and yellow dominate the view. There is a bright spot, however. Way in the back, there is some graffiti covering a wall. It is the artwork of the visual artist Janeth Mossa and fellow creatives.

Janeth’s graffiti shows the contours of a girl and a boy, as well as books and other school symbols – the mural should teach the pupils at the school about the importance of equal rights in education, the artist says. 

“Boys and girls should get the same education,” she told The Chanzo during an interview. “We need equality in every part of society. Women are still expected to marry young and stay home; that must change.”

The 27-year-old artist, who goes by the artistic name J Moncada, discovered her passion for art through a fellow artist. She recalls visiting him in his studio one day. 

READ MORE: Nafasi Awards Six Young Artists Whose Art Highlight Key Human Rights Issues

“I wanted a picture from him,” she recalled. “He, in turn, handed me a canvas and encouraged me to draw myself. That is when my journey as an artist started.” 

The artist became Janeth’s mentor and teacher, making her take art seriously.

Lack of support for art

It was only after finishing a degree in marketing at a business college that Janeth decided to do art professionally. She says being employed was not an appealing prospect for her, adding: “I wanted to try something else.” 

She left her hometown, Arusha and established herself in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.

However, her decision to be an artist comes with difficulties. Janeth says that art in Tanzania does not get enough support. That is especially true for female artists like herself, who are still in the minority. 

READ MORE: Artists in Tanzania Demand Creative Freedom: ‘We’re Being Censored’

“It can be challenging being a young woman,” she thinks.  She feels that art gallery owners often prefer to work with artists with big name recognition, adding: “They pick their favourites.”

Changing the society

Nevertheless, Janeth manages to live from her art and make a modest living. She is eclectic and uses a range of disciplines to express herself creatively: She paints, cuts wood, forms sculptures, and sprays graffiti. 

It is a repertoire that stretches from fine arts to street art. Hip-hop culture is of special importance to her, and she sees herself very much as part of that cultural movement. 

To supplement her income, Janeth also sells batik t-shirts. Making money, however, is not her primary goal. She says: “I want to teach and change society.”

Her dream is to one day have her own big studio. There, she would like to educate the young generation about art. 

READ MORE: Nay Wa Mitego: Artist Who Speaks Truth to Power Battles With Authorities’ Attempts to ‘Silence’ Him

Future students of Muhimbili Primary School may, therefore, will appreciate Janeth’s work on a wall and learn from the artist directly.


Marc Bürgi reports for The Chanzo from Dar es Salaam. He is available at burgimar@gmx.ch.

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