John Baptist da Silva (Tanzanian, 1937 – 2013)
Stone Town l, 2009, Stone Town II, 2007
Signed ‘DA SILVA’ (lower right), J.B.DA SILVA 07 (lower right)
Oil on canvas
14 x 18.5 cm, 22.7 x 22.7 cm
Ksh 150,000 – 250,000 for the pair
(US$) 1,450 – 2,450
Provenance: Private collection of Jeff Koinange

John Baptist Da Silva, the most prominent artist to come out of Zanzibar, was the son of Goan immigrants who came to Zanzibar from Portuguese Goa in 1947. He gained prominence for his paintings and drawings, which documented the people, architecture, and culture of Zanzibar.

As a young man, Da Silva worked as a clerk for the local registrar in Zanzibar, and took on his first major artistic project restoring the paintings and murals of the Catholic Cathedral of St Joseph, which was built by the French in 1898. His early works had featured portraits of people of Zanzibar, but this project turned his attention to the architecture of Stone Town. In his drawings, paintings and photographs, Da Silva recorded the build environment, studying the various influences on the architecture – African, Arab, Persian, and European.

Through his artwork and research, Da Silva gained renown as an artist and historian of Zanzibar, sharing his vast knowledge through walking tours of the Stone Town. His paintings and drawings are a valuable record of the fast-vanishing vernacular architecture of Zanzibar.

Da Silva had several exhibitions in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. For his artistic and conservation work, he received many accolades, including the 2008 the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in 2008.