Manuela Sambo

Manuela Sambo was born in Luanda (Angola). As a child, she was surrounded almost exclusively by African art. In the 1980s, she studied German language and literature in Leipzig. Through her future husband, the painter Daniel Sambo-Richter, she came into contact with East German underground art. Its neo-expressive language was often based on African and non-European motifs and was open to the magical rituals of earlier cultures.

Manuela Sambo produced her first works of art, initially small masks, while still a student. After graduating, she devoted herself entirely to fine art. She created sculptures, works on paper and her first paintings. The artist was fascinated by figures of the Virgin Mary and studied European art history. She writes:

"The woman is very important in Angolan culture. In traditional art, motherhood and sexuality were emphasized, as well as the mystical, the magical, the primordial feminine. European Marian figures, on the other hand, have a more enraptured expression... Mary is also the primordial mother, but her physical attributes are not emphasized...

The figures in my paintings are seeing, but in the sense of looking inwards. For me, this is a way of describing people in a supra-personal way. I have always been interested in the concept of masks. A mask transforms everyone into something immaterial, almost like a ghost. The person loses their individuality and becomes abstract.

In this context, I also realized that Western modernism had discovered forms of abstraction in the visual language of non-European cultures, which was already anchored in me through my origins and is inherent to me. In the process of reflecting on the development of Western art, I was interested in a reversal of this strategy, namely, as an African, to integrate certain parameters of early Western art, especially the Renaissance, into my work."