In the rebuilding of Angola’s society after the war, a burgeoning crop of contemporary artists, especially in Luanda, are expressing their inspirations to the world. Here is the view of two well-known Angolan artists.
António Ole, one of Angola’s most admired and internationally acknowledged artists. He expounds, “The world is in transition. And during transitions there tend to be artistic explosions, explosions of creativity. Right now, everyone should be alert. Interpreting the world is part of what we artists do,” he says
One of a handful of artists who stayed on in Angola during the civil war, Ole, 60, has since exhibited all over the world including in venues such as London’s Hayward Gallery and the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. He has also taken part in international exhibitions including the Venice Biennial, the São Paulo Biennial and ‘The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994’ at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Ole’s work includes film, sculpture and photography as well as painting. “What astonishes me is people’s creativity in Angolan civil society,” he says. “I feel very inspired by this positive energy. Development is not only about education and health; it is also about the evolution of a cultural identity. From independence onwards, Angola has tried to find, construct and keep this identity. It’s a long marathon in which everyone takes part. What Angola still needs is a more balanced society. Then you’ll see that we’re going to create artistic champions.”
Another well-known Angolan painter is Paulo Kussy, 34. He studied fine arts in Lisbon and is fascinated by the human body. He passes on his artistic expertise to students at the Methodist University of Angola.
Kussy attended school in Luanda up until the sixth grade. He then lived in Lisbon with his family for 17 years. He spent all his family holidays were spent either in Rome, Madrid, Florence, Venice or Lisbon, the culture of which influenced him profoundly. Kussy returned to Angola, where critics immediately applauded his art.
“Painting is like writing a song,” Kussy explains in the café of a Luanda city centre hotel. “You spend five days thinking about the lyrics and the melody. Then you go to the studio, close your eyes and just let it go.”
Kussy is inspired by the Pre- Raphaelites, neoclassicism, baroque art, cubism, surrealism, architecture, graffiti art and the hectic day-to-day life of Luanda. “I enjoy looking at people,” he says. “Our structure, muscles, fat – I study people when I look at them.” His paintings are all about “people fighting for space” and he places great emphasis on anatomy. “The figures in my paintings ask for help. They’re aggressive, they’re submissive, they are pulled away, pushed against.
“What’s Angolan about my work is that I’m Angolan. I’m contributing to the development of my country. There should not be a preconceived idea of what is Angolan or African or black or white art. Art is all about the individual,” he argues.
“I’m mostly influenced by cities because I didn’t grow up in the countryside. Big buildings, structures, that’s my library. Not a woman carrying a child, or an elephant, a lion or a baobab tree. I’d be lying if I painted that. It would be fake.” (Sonangol Universo Magazine, October 2012)