portrait photo of artist Malangatana Ngwenya

Malangatana Ngwenya

Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (1936 – 2011)

Malangatana was born in rural southern Mozambique. At the age of 12, he left his family for the capital where he found employment at a tennis club. One of the members gave him art materials and encouragement; by 1958, Malangatana had joined a local artists’ collective Nucleo de Arte.

In 1959, his work was exhibited publicly for the first time in a group exhibition, and he had his first solo exhibition (the first of many) in 1961.

He was also a respected poet, with his work published as part of an anthology of African writers’ work in 1963.

As a rising talent in the controversial world of the arts, Malangatana was accused of involvement with FRELIMO and he was detained by the secret police and jailed for 18 months.

Malangatana’s work reflects the fusion of his rural childhood, steeped in mythology and witchcraft, and the liberation struggle of his urban adult experience.

Malangatana travelled widely and his work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions worldwide, becoming eventually the venerated ‘old man’ of Mozambiquan art before his death in 2011. He made a huge contribution to Mozambiquan culture, and in 1997 was named UNESCO Artist For Peace.

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