By Gladys Kalichini
We have been in Maputo for twenty one days, we have seen many sites, met local artists and even visited their homes. The visit that vividly remains was on the 11th of July 2015 to the late Malangatana’s studio, one of Mozambique’s most prominent visual artists. This was a wonderful event, even in the absence of the artist himself, though throughout the visit it was almost impossible not to feel his once upon a time presence in that very place, his passion to produce and what came across as his unswaying drive for the people of Mozambique.
The maroon three story studio shows the influence of Malangatana’s influence in the outlook of the building. From the studio came his oldest son, a friendly middle aged man with a witty sense of humor, “this building you see here was his studio, but we do not use the main entrance because even he, himself rarely used this door”, he said. A simple piece of information to give, yet so intimate. And so we used the entrance of the side building, down a narrow passage, a turn and there was the entrance Malangatana Valente Ngwenya once used.
Admittedly, in knowing that we were going to visit this studio I was filled with excitement that morning. When I did eventually walk into his studio that afternoon, the feeling was overwhelming, the place had walls filled with his work that was mostly shades of brown, yellow, red, blue and green. Right as one walked in, there were easels, chairs and possibly the last paintings he worked on that confronted me with the truth that he once sat there, he worked in that building, and it was his harbor. It was as if walking into the space of his head. And with every room I walked into, and every floor we went up I noticed items that looked sentimental and intimate; the old television set, the round table with scribbled paper on the first floor, a framed portrait on the second floor and the opened letters in the middle of his books in the library.
This visit was for me one of the most phenomenal experiences in Maputo because in that one day, that one afternoon I could almost feel the history, the struggle and the passion that this brilliant artist had lived through and the legacy he had left behind. The familiarity of the artist from a studio perspective as opposed to knowing his work from a museum left a feeling of both gratitude and inspiration.