/ 5 January 2011

Mozambican painter Malangatana dies in Portugal

Mozambican painter Malangatana, one of Africa’s greatest contemporary artists, died Wednesday aged 74 in Portugal, where he had been hospitalised for several days, hospital staff said.

Considered one of the leading artists of the former Portuguese colony, Malangatana died during the night after a long sickness, a spokesman of the Pedro Hispano hospital at Matosinhos in northern Portugal said.

He was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Day.

Born on June 6, 1936 in Malatana, a village in southern Mozambique, Malangatana Valente Ngwenya spent his early life working as a herder, apprentice healer, a servant and a ball boy in a tennis club.

It was on the tennis court where he was introduced to painting by Portuguese colonists, who encouraged him to pursue art.

Known for his big canvases and colourful frescos, Malangatana was also a ceramicist, sculptor and poet.

He undertook numerous public artworks after Mozambique gained independence in 1975, notably murals adorning the Museum of Natural History and the Centre for African Studies at the Eduardo Mondlane University.

From 1990 to 1994 he served as a parliamentary deputy of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), the ruling party since the country’s independence.

In 1997 he was named UNESCO Artist for Peace. — AFP