The Mozambican painter Malangatana passed away at the age of 74, in the Hospital Pedro Hispano (Matosinhos, Portugal).
Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (6 June 1936 - 5 December 2010) was born in Matalana, a village of the district of Marracuene, located in the outskirts of at the time called Lourenço Marques, present Maputo.
His father was a miner in South Africa and his mother embroided trousers and would sharpen the teeth of local young girls, a trend at the time.
With a sick mother and an absent father, Malangatana went to live with an uncle, studying until the third grade. He started working with 11 years of age, carrying out tasks such as babysitter or catching balls at the tennis club.
Spending great part of his youth together with portuguese settlers, it was with them that his awaken to the arts took place. One night at the house of the biologist, sculptor and painter Augusto Cabral (1922-2006), Malangatana saw him painting and requested to be taught. He was given some paints, brushes and plywood panels.
The young Malangatana also had the sponsorship of the portuguese architect Pancho Guedes, who offered him a space in the garage of his home in Maputo and would buy him two paintings every month, offering a generous amount.
In few months he manifested the will of showing his works to the public, and the exhibition became an enormous success.
During the 70s he travels to Portugal for the first time, thanks to a Gulbenkian's scholarship.
Politics also played an important role in his life, he was a deputy of FRELIMO between 1990 and 1994 . During the portuguese colonization he was placed into custody due to the suspect of connections with the same group, being released after 18 months at the lack of evidence.
He was one of the founders of the National Art Museum of Mozambique, Unicef colaborator, and initiated the creation of a Cultural Center in his homeland Matalana.
His works were exhibited in Mozambique, Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Austria, United States, Bulgaria and India, and can be found in museums, galleries and private collections.
Murals can be found in Maputo, Beira, Colombia, South Africa, Suaziland and Sweden.
The Mozambican artist also tried his artistic skills with pottery, tapestry, engraving and sculpture, he was also an actor, poet, dancer, musician and philantrophist.
Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (crocodile) was attributed the Honoris Causa degree by the Évora university, the Prince Claus award, the medal of the Ordem do Infante D. Henrique, and was nominated Artist for Peace, by Unesco.
Photo by Carlos Lopes (Público newspaper archive)