St Paul's Church

Church in Mtwara

If you are in the Majengo area of Mtwara, it's well worth stopping in at St Paul’s Church (800m southeast of the market) to view its remarkable artwork. The entire front and side walls are covered with richly coloured biblical scenes painted by a German Benedictine priest, Polycarp Uehlein, in the mid-1970s. In addition to their style and distinctive use of colour, the paintings are notable for their universalised portrayal of common biblical themes.

The themes were chosen to assist churchgoers in understanding the sermons and to relate the biblical lessons to their everyday lives.

The paintings, which took about two years to complete, are part of a series by the same artist that decorate churches throughout southern Tanzania and in a few other areas of the country, including churches in Nyangao, Lindi, Malolo, Ngapa and Dar es Salaam.

During the years he worked in Tanzania, Father Polycarp taught several African students. The best known of these is Henry Likonde from Mtwara, who has taken biblical scenes and ‘Africanised’ them. You can see examples of Likonde’s work in the small church at the top of the hill in Mahurunga, south of Mtwara near the Mozambican border, and in the cathedral in Songea.