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
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
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,
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
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
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.