Villas&Golfe Moçambique
· Art · · T. Filomena Abreu · P. Nuno Almendra

Cristiano Mangovo

«Art courses through my veins»

PMmedia Adv.
His canvases become a pure reflection of his soul. The colours, a highway direct to his feelings. Cristiano Mangovo, born in Cabinda, Angola, is the third in a family of seven children, where his gift for painting firmly took root. Committed to the world around him, he often lets himself be touched by the specific issues that shape the African context in which he was born and raised. This was the case recently with Os Protagonistas [The Protagonists], a show he proudly took to the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery of the Angola Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Success is made with small steps. And the art world has seen Cristiano Mangovo take many.
What was your childhood like and how did you start painting?
I was born in Angola, into an artistically gifted family. As a child, amazed by my older brother’s talent, I would ask him to draw for me, but without much success, which led me to develop my own personal style. I would draw on any surface, from walls to the floor or any piece of paper I could find: it’s something I became aware of and I’m still unable to control today. A few years later, my aunt gave me some money and I immediately spent it on my first box of gouaches, at which point I started painting. I would mainly recreate film covers and comic book covers, such as Lucky Luke, the Ninja Turtles and Tintin, among others. This passion of mine grew over time, and one day my mother, seeing my honest dedication to the arts, decided to enrol me in a School of Fine Arts, opening up an immeasurable creative universe to me. 

When did you realise that you wanted to have a career as an artist?

You are born an artist. The passion for the arts has always been latent in my soul. However, it was while I was a university student at the Faculty of Fine Arts, in Kinshasa, that I became deeply aware that I wanted to live from art and for art. And so, while I was studying, I would visit the studios of masters and artists, both in the world of visual arts and popular arts. I learnt and lived intensely in this context, trying to understand its dimension. Alongside all this, I also did several workshops on urban scenography and performance art. My focus was always to get to know and explore my creative capacities so as to build my own universe, a world where I could be free.

«The passion for the arts has always been latent in my soul»
What inspires you to paint your works?
The universe that I transpose into my works results as much from my imagination as from the world that surrounds me. I have a kind of photographic memory. I am able to retain images and voices that populate my everyday life and, as such, my inspiration comes from a walk among people or forests, but also from news or books that I flick through. The world, with its smells, flavours and feelings, is, and will always be, a never-ending source of inspiration for me.

What do you want to transmit with your works?
I deal with various socio-cultural themes in my work. However, regardless of the theme, most of the time I strive to see each work as an opportunity to give hope and positive energy to those who interact with my work. 

From Angola to Portugal, how long ago did you leave your country and how has life been since then?
In actual fact, since 2018 I have been living between the two countries. It was not an easy decision. Life in Europe presupposes other financial burdens, but I believe it is an important option to expand my world, garner new inspirations, share my knowledge and win over new art lovers. I recall that it was suggested to me by a colleague from Lisbon that I should look for an alternative job, because living exclusively from art, in the middle of the capital, would be very difficult. Nevertheless, I held out and fought on, and today I have the privilege of exhibiting my work, as much in Angola and Portugal, as in other European cities, either in galleries and museums, or in artistic residencies, fairs and contemporary art biennales. Something that has contributed to my success is the fact that I work with people who believe in my work, including the galleries that support and represent me.

«Despite all the adversities, I feel blessed to be an artist»
You took Os Protagonistas [The Protagonists] to the Temporary Exhibition Gallery of the Angola Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Is this something to be proud of and a responsibility?
Without a doubt, being able to be one of the artists to represent my country at Expo Dubai 2022 is a privilege, especially for having the opportunity to bring visibility to the harsh reality of many young people in Angola. The series of works that I am presenting for the first time in the United Arab Emirates deals with life in various neighbourhoods. I mention two in which I lived: Bairro Neves Bendinha or Bairro Popular, in Luanda, and Chibodo or Bairro 4 de Abril, in Cabinda. These are neighbourhoods where some people live in harsh conditions and where there are few opportunities, but where, despite this, many young people resist getting involved in crime by taking informal jobs that ensure their survival: washing cars, transporting goods, selling fruit on the street, etc. All for the sake of their survival and the sustainability of their families. For me, these young people are an inspiration, a force of nature.One day, I would like to be able to present this series of paintings in other countries and contexts, to share this vision of how a bitter reality can become a huge source of inspiration and a lesson on the will to persevere and live.

You are a highly regarded artist internationally, with your work to be found in several prestigious homes and art galleries. As you are so young, how do you view your career path and what do you hope to achieve as a professional?
I am still a young artist and I have a long way to go. But the place I have reached has been done so with enormous perseverance, dedication, courage, sacrifice and hard work. I believe that my positivity, combined with discipline, contributes to keeping up a certain balance in my creative and personal life. I feel that art contributes to a certain balance in my soul. Despite all the adversities, I feel blessed to be an artist. Art courses through my veins.On the other hand, I also owe a lot of my success to the galleries that represent me, because they had the courage to put their faith in me and in my work, to pass it on and present it in places of prestige and respect, achieving the critical mass in which an African artist can be recognised as a global artist. However, on this path of mine, I have also learnt to respect the creativity of others. When I come across someone else’s work, not only do I appreciate it, but I also have the capacity to understand the possible sacrifices and the hard work that is necessary for that work to be in that museum or gallery. And so, I take this opportunity to thank all those who trust and contribute to the visibility of my work, of the vision it comprises, and to my creative fulfilment. I still have a dream that one day my work may be collected and exhibited in major museums, whether in Portugal, in Angola, in the rest of the world.
T. Filomena Abreu
P. Nuno Almendra