The work Cela 4 - Expectativa (1967) by Malangatana is Collection Caixa Geral de Depósitos’ current highlight as the work is on loan to the exhibition Les Péninsules démarrés at the FRAC MÉCA (Bordeaux, France). The exhibition, curated by Anne Bonnin, opened on 15 September 2022 and will continue until 23 February 2023.
Throughout the course of 5 decades, from his 1961 first exhibition till his death in 2011, the artist created his very own artistic language, which revealed political matters associated with significant events of his life. Born into a low income family, he attended the Swiss Mission School in Matalana, near Maputo. He moved to the capital in 1953 and started working at the Clube de Lourenço Marques where he met the painter and biologist Augusto Cabral. In 1958, he joined the painting course at the Núcleo de Arte, a cultural hub founded by Portuguese painter Frederico Ayres in 1936. In 1960, under the patronage of the celebrated architect Pancho Guedes, he set up his studio in the architect’s garage and dedicated himself to painting. His early work echoes surrealist attributes of figures, myths and imaginary objects; the use of strong colours and striking lines give out a magical and powerful outline. In 1964, at the beginning of the liberation war, he was arrested by the Portuguese political police and charged with collaborating with FRELIMO, the Liberation Front of Mozambique. During his 18-month incarceration, his work, which was starting to include drawing, began to incorporate the harshness of the colonial regime.
The painting Cela 4 – Expectativa, 1967, mirrors this stage of his work. By using intense primary colours (yellow, blue and red) and a black outline in the drawing, by painting huge eyes in the sculptural faces of those in the crowd the artist makes use of the collective as an attempt to appease his own fears. The frame itself is made of carved wooden faces and popular symbols that seem to pay tribute to arts and crafts and to Mozambican ancestral traditions.
In 1971, he got a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to study at the Sociedade Cooperativa de Gravadores Portugueses, Lisbon. Around this time he also started working in ceramics. Upon his return to his native country he was arrested again in 1976 and in 1977. After the civil war, he was elected a member of parliament for FRELIMO in the first multi-party elections held in 1990. He was awarded with the Degree of Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry by President Mário Soares in 1995. UNESCO named him Artist for Peace in 1997 and later that year he received the Prince Claus Fund Prize for Culture and Development. His political life as an elected member of the Municipal Assembly of Maputo continued in 1998 and in 2003. In 2010, he received the Honoris CausaDoctorate from the University of Évora and was decorated Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government at the Embassy in Mozambique.
98,5 x 123 cm