Malangatana Valente Ngwenya

The poet, musician, sculptor, and actor Malangatana Valente Ngwenya, who died in 2011, was not only the most famous artist from Mozambique, he was also also a member of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), member of parliament, alderman of Maputo, and cofounder of the Mozambican Peace Movement. Around 1960, he began to produce paintings, supported by an artist and an architect, who bought two of his paintings every month. After Portugal violently put down aspirations for independence, he joined FRELIMO, which was founded in 1962 in Dar es Salaam. Back in Lourenço Marques (today Maputo), he was arrested and spent eighteen months in jail. In 1971, at the time when he had received a scholarship of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Malangatana had to undergo interrogation by the Portuguese secret police because of a painting with the title 25th of September. The 25th of September was the day on which FRELIMO commenced its armed resistance. After independence when – supported by South Africa and Rhodesia – the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) engulfed the country in a sixteen-year-long civil war, Malangatana played a crucial role in the negotiations that led to a peace treaty in 1992. For this, he was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 1997. As a member of parliament, he worked on alphabetization campaigns, and cofounded the National Museum of Maputo and an arts center in his hometown of Matalana.