Ernest Mancoba, Wonga Mancoba, Sonja Ferlov Mancoba


11.11 – 17.12.2011


When Sonja Ferlov Mancoba wrote me letters from her and her family, she always signed them with the letters EWS. These three letters therefore forms the title and theme of this exhibition.


The Danish artist Sonja Ferlov Mancoba would have celebrated her 100th birthday in November 2011. In this occasion Galerie Mikael Andersen would like to welcome you to the exhibition EWS, showing a large selection of Sonja Ferlov Mancoba’s unique sculptures together with drawings by her husband Ernest Mancoba, and paintings by their son Wonga Mancoba.


The exhibition represents sculptures by Sonja Ferlov Mancoba from various decades up until the 1980s, showing her different artistic periods and approaches to sculpture. Two distinct directions can be outlined in Sonja Ferlov Mancoba’s sculptural production. One is frontal and centered on the theme of the mask, underlining her inspiration from ethnographic objects and primitive art. Both Maske og Ribben (1970) and Maskeskulptur (1939) are elegant and significant masterpieces within this direction. The other direction is based on organic and abstract forms, as seen in the work Hvor vejene mødes (1960). These two different directions are almost united in her late work as expressed in, for example Le roi des gueux (1972-73).


Sonja Ferlov Mancoba’s production is a visual testimony to her important position in the artistic environment of the 1930s and 1940s, as a member of the Danish surrealist group linien, which later formed the artistic foundation of the CoBrA group. Sonja Ferlov Mancoba moved to Paris early in her career, where she quickly made international connections and artist friends. Here she met the South African artist Ernest Mancoba, whom she married in 1942.


Ernest Mancoba (1904-2002) was born and raised in South Africa, which has influenced his art deeply. His work is inspired by the African ritual woodcut objects. In his evocative drawings the body is used as an expressive messenger. His human figures are often stylized or mask-like, and achieve their strongest expression through color. Ernest Mancoba was among the founders of the CoBrA group, and both he and Sonja were connected to the group until its resolution. Sonja and Ernest are strongly bound together as a couple and the meaning of their individual work cannot be separated from their joint engagement. As Ernest later put it, a separation of them and their work would be the same as a negation of their lives.


Wonga Mancoba (b. 1946) works with language as a means of inspiration in his paintings and in many ways his works carry on the tradition from his parents. His works are often based in historical events, for example the brutal treatment and eradication of black South Africans from Sophiatown in Johannesburg. This event has both a personal significance for Wonga as well as a historical one. His paintings are visually referring to the drawings of Ernest Mancoba, but words have been painted into the composition. The paintings are thus loaded with signs referring to several layers of meaning, and are intermedial at the same time. The exhibition represents works by a family of great artistic talent and energy.

Photo credits: Jan Søndergaard