Wood Art, Painting & Weaving in Zanzibar

Arts & Crafts

Wood Art

Zanzibar has a unique woodcarving craft. These artistic woodcarvings are well known from the beautiful doors that adorn the houses in Stone Town, but are also applied to furniture and other woodwork.

Traditionally, the construction of a house in Zanzibar began with the carving of the door. It symbolised the status of the householder. The larger and more elaborate the door, the richer the owner.
But the decorations also told others a little bit about the person: wave-like patterns indicate that the householder was involved in maritime trade, fish that he was a fisherman, vines are references to the spice trade, chain symbols to the slave trade, etc.


Tingatinga is a painting style that originated in East Africa and one of the most widely represented forms of tourist-oriented paintings in Tanzania, Kenya and neighbouring countries. The genre is named after its founder, Tanzanian painter Edward Tingatinga.

Tingatinga is traditionally made on masonite, using several layers of bicycle paint, which makes for brilliant and highly saturated colours. Many elements of the style are related to the requirements of the tourist-oriented market; for example, the paintings are usually small so they can be easily transported.

In this sense, Tingatinga paintings can be considered a form of "airport painting". The drawings themselves can be described as both naïve and caricatural; humour and sarcasm are often explicit.


Using traditional weaving techniques and old patterns, the local artists create unique pieces of exceptional craftsmanship. Every item is carefully and individually made by female artisans in the villages of Zanzibar.

The weaving of various items (e.g. baskets, hats, bags, breathable walls and roofs suitable for the warm weather, fences, etc.) is very labour intensive, as it can take up to more than a week to complete one. The techniques that are used can be very complex and are passed down from generation to generation, going far back in time.

Everyone in the family contributes to the work, small children start learning the techniques by splitting the folded leaves. The oldest woman of the household will always start the weaving to show appreciation of her knowledge and bless the work.

Every pattern is named after something it resembles. The patterns in an old plaited mat can tell us a whole history.

Art Classes

As part of our eco-sustainable approach, and wishing to support the local community, Ycona Luxury Resort is delighted to host local artisans, so that they can not only sell their beautiful products, but also to offer art classes to Guests.