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Angola is a developing African country characterised by a diversity of cultures and by a rich cultural heritage, inhabited by people from different ethnic and cultural groups and traditions (Redinha, 1974).

Despite Western influence, the people from the different regions of Angola differ in their beliefs, material culture, social organisation, religion, and political and ideological convictions; although they speak different languages, there is an underlying common culture and art is considered one of the most important components of the culture of the traditional societies that are its inheritance from the past.
For this reason, art as a product and expression of culture is an ideal field to observe this reality, since through art it is possible to capture systems of symbolic organisation.

Studies in the field of African History today help to reduce the importance of myths and to view art from the perspective of African culture.
After so many attempts to connect African art to a more or less functional or specifically religious concept, an analysis of the aesthetic type has finally emerged, in which the universe of forms is essential. The reduction of forms to the essential embraces an understanding of expressive meanings, according to Fernando Mourão,* or making visible the invisible, to use the expression of Paul Klee, thereby displaying the implicit.

One fundamental aspect of specifically African art is the fact that it is highly dynamic, and this has been accepted with deserved recognition and more or less constant attention by Western museums since the 1960s.
Various factors contribute to this appreciation, including, according to the Angolan art critic Mixinge*, the political independence of African countries, the civil rights movements in the United States and the challenge to conventional art made by various "anti-art movements". Various Western authors have thus encouraged a reassessment of the concept of "art" to extend its meaning.


As McFee* wrote "art is made with a purpose in the attempt to enrich the message or to highlight the object or structure and to affect awareness of quality and content in the observer". This concept surpasses the limits of the aesthetic, seeking, besides the formal characteristics of the work, to circumscribe it in historical and sociological terms. Content and form, in this case, do not present differences.
Although the foundations of African art are common to the Whole African continent, as can be seen in recent publications on modern and contemporary African art, each country has clearly had different experiences and paths and has specific national characteristics with deep roots in the particular traditions of each of these post-colonial Africa nation states. In the case of Angola, the lack of research and reflection in the field of the history of Angolan art has contributed significantly to the shortage of information on the activities of official institutions during the colonial period.

In other English and French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the situation was precisely the opposite of what happened in Angola. In those countries, there were a succession of visits from European missionaries, artists and art lovers from the 1920s and 1930s onwards, a period characterised by the affirmation of "modernism" in Latin America, the introduction of the European avant-garde movements from the beginning of the century and the development of particular experiences in art practice in sub-Saharan Africa. (Pierre Gaudibert, 1994)

However, in Angola, contact between local Angolan artists and certain European artists and patrons of the arts only began in the 1940s. Vitor Teixeira (Viteix, 1983, p.87).
These artists, some as teachers in the official Portuguese education system and others as visitors to the then colony, contributed to the introduction of Western artistic techniques whose influences are demonstrated in different trends, including a break with the canons of African art in favour of Greco-Roman formulas and their later extension to the concept of "modern" art according to a Western perspective.
Meanwhile this influence was also apparent in the appropriation of Western techniques such as easel painting, the potter's wheel, new methods for assembling sculpture, in addition to others such as drawing and introductory art education, new methods of dissemination and promotion of art, and linocuts and woodcuts as printing media.

With the introduction of Western art techniques and models, the Angolan artist from the main urban centres developed an art in which an imitation of European academic art predominated, from a perspective of assimilation and in a context that reflected the conservative taste of European colonials and artists.
Persistent themes were portraits associated with colonial ethnography, still lives and oil landscapes, gouache or watercolour, also treated in a conventional, naturalist style, those closest to photography sometimes with a "naive" touch, frequently idealised and decorative breaking with all tradition, revealing a renunciation of African identity.

In the 1950s, a period characterised by an increase in political, social and cultural events and by the development of the national freedom movements that were to have such important repercussions on the history of Angola, painting, in particular, began to display the influence of political content - (themes with ideological content - although artists continued to use content rather than form in their fight against foreign oppression.

Source:Jorge Gumbe
 

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