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Valente Malangatana Ngwenya (Ngwenya means crocodile)born on June 6th 1936, Malangatana

grew up in a village called Matalana, located about 30 km north of Maputo, Mozambiques capital.
He helped his mother, who was a traditional healer, on her farm while attending first Swiss
Protestant and then Roman Catholic mission schools. His father, like many men from the countrys
southern region, was often absent as he was away working in the gold mines of South Africa. While
growing up in Matalana he worked herding cattle and studied traditional healing from two of his
uncles.during this time in Malatana , Malangatana was not yet practising art and was lke any other
village boy living in the countryside.

At the age of 12, Malangatana moved to the capital to find work. At that time, the capital, now
called Maputo, was called Loureno Marques by the Portuguese colonial authorities. Marques was a
Portuguese trader and explorer who settled in Mozambique. The capital was renamed Maputo, after
the Maputo River, during independence in 1976. He first found work as a nanny, then, in 1953,
Malangatana found work as a ball boy at a tennis club. It was here that he met Augusto Cabral and
Pancho Guedes, both members of the tennis club, who would help to introduce him to Maputos
artistic community and support his education as an artist. As Joe Pollitt recounts how Cabral met

Malangatana asked Cabral, one of the tennis club's members, whether he had a pair of old sandals
he could spare. The young biologist ( and amateur painter) took him home. Malangatana asked to
be taught painting, and Cabral gave him equipment and the advice to paint whatever was in his
head. Putting aside his teenage training as a traditional healer, Malangatana did just that,
encouraged by Cabral and the prolific Portuguese-born architect Pancho Guedes, another tennis
club member. Malangatana would obtain his subjects from imagination and most of these were
heads which were presentd in abstract form clustered on the same people. They seemed too
spiritual to be traditional. This might have been inspired ny the notion that his mother was a
traditional healer.
Early themes in Malangatanas work drew upon his childhood upbringing in rural Mozambique. As a
curatorial text points out, folklore, mythology, religion and family life provided the inspiration for
much of his art during this period. Surely his mothers vocation as a tooth sharpener, a practice
familiar to societies as far apart as Aboriginal Australia, China, Indonesia (Bali) and Vietnam, and
central to fashion, social ritual and spirituality in about as many diverse settings worldwide, would
have left its mark on Malangatanas formative years.
Theres no denying either that the boy artists encounters with European colonialism fed into a
maturing of consciousness that led to political confrontations and conflict that put his personal well-
being in peril. That experience also produced art with more than a dash of social comment, indeed it
signalled his foray into full-scale political activism. Malangatanas brush with the Portuguese secret
police while Portugal and its colonies toiled under dictatorship in Lisbon also influenced his work.

With time Malangatanas work showed inspiration which rose from feel of the countryside filled
with emotion too, such as a group of people with sad or happy faces. Some of the work was of nude
women in a group in preparation of a traditional ceremony or a dance festival. Most of
Malangatanas work would be like that. For execution of many subjects in a single work , it was not a
hustle for Malangatana as he had his own unique style in the development some facial features of
the portraits he produced. This also makes his work authentic and easy to identify if not labelled for
the credit of the artist.

Years later in 1981, when Cabral had become the director of the Natural History Museum in Maputo,
he would give Malangatana a commission to create a mural in its gardens. Joe Pollitt describes the
mural as follows: In a celebration of the unity of humankind and the often brutal world of nature,
the work depicts wide-eyed figures in earth-coloured pastels, with extended limbs and claw-like
hands. Malangatana began to attend events organized by Nucleo de Arte. In 1959, he exhibited
publicly for the first time as part of a group show organized by Nucleo. Alda Costa describes the
formation of the Nucleo de Arte as follows:

In 1936, some of these individuals were involved in the creation of the Ncleo de Arte da Colnia de
Moambique, which was set up in the city of Loureno Marques with the aim of spreading aesthetic
education and promoting the progress of art in the colony. According to the associations statutes,
its job was to organise art courses, put on art exhibitions, create an art museum (with an indigenous
art section), and organise visits by artists from Portugal, who could create works of art in the colony
inspired by local subjects. It was also its job to organise art exhibitions dealing with Mozambican
subjects in Portugal and contribute, in every possible way, to the artistic exchange between
Mozambique and the metrpole. Its sections included: Architecture, Fine and Decorative Arts; Music
and Choreography; Theatre; Literature and History of Art; Indigenous Art and Ethnography and also
Propaganda and Publicity. In the event of a situation not being covered by the associations statutes,
the statutes of the metroples Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes (Portuguese Fine Arts Society)
would apply. The creation of the Ncleo de Arte was clearly the embodiment of imperial thinking
and of the attempt to build closer relations between Portugal and its colonies, as were the large-
scale propaganda campaigns carried out at the time. Its actions and importance in the colony,
however, spread far beyond those interests

In 1961, at the age of 25, he had his first solo exhibition. According to Joe Pollitt, writing
Malangatanas obituary in The Guardian:

He courageously presented his ambitious Juzo Final (Final Judgment), a commentary on life under
oppressive Portuguese rule. Mystical figures of many colours, including a black priest dressed in
white, evoke a vision of hell. Some of the figures have sharp white fangs, a recurring motif in
Malangatanas work, symbolising the ugliness of human savagery.
Malangatana also wrote poetry. In 1963, some of his poetry was included in the journal Black
Orpheus and was included in the anthology Modern Poetry from Africa.
In 1964, Malangatana joined the struggle for Mozambican independence by becoming a member of
the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO). For his involvement, he was arrested by the
Portuguese secret police (PIDE) and spent 18 months in jail. One of his fellow prisoners was
Mozambiques leading poet, Jos Craveirinha.
In 1971, he received a grant from the Lisbon-based Gulbenkian Foundation (created by the
Armenian oil magnate and art collector Calouste Gulbenkian, who played a key role in making the
Middle Easts oil reserves available to the Western world) and went to Portugal to study printmaking
and ceramics. His art reached an international audience and he had exhibitions in Lisbon. Three
years later, he returned to Mozambique. The Carnation Revolution of April 1974, the military coup in
Portugal that forced its government from a dictatorship to a democracy, accelerated Mozambiques
independence. He rejoined FRELIMO, which had developed from a guerrilla movement into a single-
party Communist organization aimed at becoming the new ruling political power. However, a rival
political party, the Mozambique Resistance Movement (RENAMO), supported by Rhodesia
(Zimbabwe) and South Africa, came into conflict with FRELIMO, and a devastating civil war ensues
costing the country about a million lives, as people died in combat, from starvation. About five
million people were displaced. Many were made amputees by landmines, which are still a problem
even after the civil war ended in 1992.
From 1981, he was able to work full-time as an artist, and the following year Augusto Cabral,
director of the Natural History Museum in Maputo, commissioned him to create a mural in its
gardens. In a celebration of the unity of humankind and the often brutal world of nature, the work
depicts wide-eyed figures in earth-coloured pastels, with extended limbs and claw-like hands.

Malangatana was active in FRELIMO during this period but he also continued his work as an artist.
His work during this time is a reflection on the horrors of the civil war. According to art critic Holland
Cotter in his obituary for Malangatana:
Most of the paintings and drawings Mr. Ngwenya did during this period were a direct response to
the violence he witnessed. Densely packed with figures, they presented lurid, Boschian visions of the
Last Judgment and the torments of hell rooted in images related to healing and witchcraft
remembered from childhood. It was only after peace was finally declared in 1992 that the content
and the look of his work changed: he introduced landscape images and cooled a palette dominated
by charred reds and stained whites with greens and blues.

In 1997 he was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace and received a Prince Claus Award.

He is survived by his wife, Sinkwenta Gelita Mhangwana, two daughters, and two sons.

According to Guardian journalist Duncan Campbell, who met Malangatana in 2005:

While on an assignment for the Guardian in Mozambique in 2005, I was fortunate enough to be
introduced to Malangatana, who was then living in a large house near the airport which was part
gallery and part archive. I had already been shown some of his work, which was not only in public
galleries in Maputo, but also widely used for book covers and CDs. What was remarkable about him
was that he brushed off questions about his own work and insisted instead on taking us on a magical
conducted tour of local artists from painter to sculptor to batik-maker. He was anxious that they
should receive publicity rather than him. For their part, they clearly held him in high esteem. He is
my general, one of the young artists told me.
Malangatanas paintings are interpretations of a way of life in which mysticism and fantasy play a
large functional role as some researchers mentioned. Although there is a temptation to call his
paintings Surrealists, his vision in for him straightforward and real, unlike the intellectual game that
it is for many sophisticated European Surrealist painters

As an artist Malangatana has been renowned for his public art, with murals and
large panels adorning various cities and institutions in addition to Maputo. He
has exhibited in over 100 cities on four continents, and his paintings, drawings,
watercolours, prints, ceramics, tapestry and sculpture can be found in museums,
galleries and private collections all over the world.

Career highlights:

1961 First solo exhibition in Loureno Marques, Mozambique
1963 - First joint exhibition in London, UK (ICA)
1964 - Solo exhibition of drawings at the UN headquarters in New York
1969 - Joint exhibition in London , UK (Camden Arts Centre)
1970 - Joint exhibition, Muse de lHomme, Paris, France
1974 - Joint exhibition Contemporary African Art, Museum of African Art, Washington,
1977 - Joint exhibition at II Festival of Black and African Arts, Lagos & Kaduna, Nigeria
1984 - Joint exhibition Artists of the World against Apartheid begins 2-year European
tour journeopeEurope
1986 - 50th birthday retrospective in Maputo; a small-scale version later exhibited in
Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Portugal, Sweden and Italy
1989 - Major iron and cement sculpture (25m high) completed in Mozambique, later designated by
UNESCO as World Heritage; solo exhibition at Greenwich Citizens Gallery,
1992 - Collective exhibition Africa Explores travels through the USA and Europe for 4
1993 - Mural for the Africa Pavilion at Expo 92 in Seville, Spain
1996 - Joint exhibitions in Termoli (Italy), Finland and Copenhagen (Container 96)
1997 - Mural for UNESCO HQ in Paris
2001 - Participation in Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, Tate
Modern, London; Encounters with the Contemporary, National Museum of African Art,
Washington DC; and The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in
Africa, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, P.S.1, New York, Villa Stuck, Munich, the
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.
2008 Individual exhibition, Vivncias Galeria Valbom, Lisbon, Portugal
2008-2009 Joint travelling exhibition, Lusofonies/Lusofonias Dakar, Senegal;
Maputo, Moambique; Luanda, Angola; S. Vicente, Cape Verde; Lisbon, Portugal.

Museums and collections

Malangatana is represented in many museums and galleries, including:

-The National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA
-The National Gallery of Contemporary Art, New Delhi, India
-The Contemporary Art Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
-The Mbari of Oshogbo, Nigeria
-The National Art Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe
-The Modern Art Centre, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal
-The Robben IslandMayibuye Archives collection of artworks, South Africa

Main prizes and honours

1959 - Honourable Mention, I Art Competition, Loureno Marques, Mozambique
1970 - Diploma and Silver Medal as member Honoris Causa of the Tomase Campanella
Academy of Arts and Sciences, Italy
1984 - Nachingwea Medal, for his contribution to Mozambican culture, Mozambique
1990 - International Association of Art Critics Prize, France
1990 - Order of the Southern Cross, Brazil
1995 - Officer of the Order of Infante D. Henrique, Portugal
1997 - Prince Klaus Prize, Holland
1997 - UNESCO Artist for Peace
2006 Eduardo Mondlane Order, First Class, Mozambique
2007 Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, France
2010 - Honorary Doctorate, University of Evora, Portugal






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