Please join us for a conversation with Hendrik Folkerts, Dittmer Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art; Constantine Petridis, Chair and Curator, Arts of Africa; and Felicia Mings, Academic Curator, Department of Academic Engagement and Research, together co-organizers of the exhibition Malangatana: Mozambique Modern on view at the Art Institute of Chicago until November 16. This exhibition is supported in part through the SCA Activation Fund.
Artist, poet, and revered national hero Malangatana Ngwenya (1936–2011) was a pioneer of modern art in Africa. Born in Mozambique, Malangatana depicted vivid allegorical scenes that take inspiration from local religious practices and are influenced by his own cultural background and life under colonial rule. This exhibition presents a selection of the artist’s early paintings and drawings, made between 1959 and 1975. In this period Malangatana embarked on bold formal experiments that coalesced into a signature style characterized by dense compositions of human, animal, and monstrous figures. Malangatana’s early career coincides with Mozambique’s liberation struggle, in particular the armed resistance against the Portuguese in 1964 spearheaded by the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO). A Portuguese colony until 1975, Mozambique was among the last countries on the African continent to gain independence. Malangatana’s paintings and drawings exemplify the confluence of artistic innovation and political liberation that has shaped the history of modern art in Africa during the second half of the 20th century.