Gregory Mchopa, 25, sells his strikingly luminous work in a small shop he owns on the Msasani Peninsula. Nearby, in dusty alleyways, men stretch and nail cloth over wooden frames. They prime the cloth in quick strokes, and leave it to dry in the sun. Only then is it ready to become one of Mchopa's next canvasses; he buys many of them. Mchopa mixes the paints himself, preparing the oils he's able to source via contacts in South Africa with a resin that keeps them moist in the hot African sun. He deftly combines tints to re-create the iconic colors of his native Maasai, blending colors in swift motions on a table-top. At the same time, on the dusty Nokia he clutches in the other hand, he also secures inventory and makes local sales in mile-a-minute Swahili.
Mchopa, originally from Dar es Salaam, is a young African entrepreneur reaching out into the world. But when the canvas is ready for him, with the radio scratching beside his wooden toolbox, he returns to his art and to the world he knows best: that of the Maasai. He has been painting for 16 years.