Friday, January 07, 2011

Death of an Iconic African Artist: Personal reflections on Malangatana

The late Malangatana at work

It was through Twitter that I learnt about sad passing of the iconic Mozambican artist Malangatana aged 74 years on 5th January 2011. Sadly, many Africans may be scratching their heads wondering who exactly Malangatana was. However, for those who had the humbling honour of coming up close and personal with his work, it is indeed a tragic loss.

In the 1990s, Malangatana came to my school in Swaziland and alongside some art students, painted an amazing wall mural. The mural was full of rich, vibrant, warm colours. It was typical of Malangatana's style but also represented the racial diversity that my school had long been associated with. Indeed, my school is still known for its provocative political stance in the face of apartheid South Africa just next door to us. But that is another story. The mural was an apt celebration of the principles of diversity and can still be found at the school.
The Malangatana mural from my school's website with part of the school's creed. Unfortunately, I could not find other pictures of the mural
Some of us were completely artistically deficient were not part of the mural-painting activity but did observe from a distance; green with envy. Malangatana himself was larger than life, down to earth and full of humour. He charmed us all.

Years later, while at a conference in Maputo, my late father met Malangatana and was given an original oil painting which we still have. Interestingly, the painting was lost while my father transited through South Africa but it was thankfully found. 
Our Malangatana
As I look on the painting, I will always remember the artist behind it and the lives he touched and his amazing ability. He was indeed an African icon. 

Rest in Peace Malangatana.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

It's sad but death is an end we can hide from. His paintings I saw were so unique that the very moment I saw the cover illustration of Momple's book Neighbours I knew it must be him. I checked and there it was, the name 'Malangatana'

Abena Serwaa said...

@NFA; I've never heard of the author but now I know I definitely have to check out the book! Thanks for that..