“There were a lot of people hovering around” (*1)
(Ulli Beier, Frank McEwen, Pancho Guedes and Julian Beinart - an informal network of mediators, patrons and benefactors, Africa 1950s/60s)
“1950s-1960s - Amâncio Guedes, a Portuguese architect residing in Maputo, Mozambique, organizes informal workshops for young artists. Among the participants is Malangatana Ngwenya (born 1936), whose paintings are later shown by the Mbari Artists and Writers Club in Ibadan, Nigeria”. Information from Heildbrunn Timeline of Art History, on the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art website, chapter “Southern Africa, 1900 A.D. – present”, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=11®ion=afo#/Key-Events).
Later, there is another, rather inaccurate reference to Malangatana; however, this is the only event of artistic importance in so-called Portuguese Africa. Angola and Mozambique appear on the timeline with the dates of the armed struggles (1961 and 1963, respectively – when it should be 1964), and then only much later in 1975 because of the countries’ independence. There is a void of information that separates them drastically from neighbouring areas; however, if there was a true lack of events, there was also a lack of knowledge. The reference to Amâncio Guedes illustrates a hazy recollection of the facts; firstly because of the inaccurate date given, which puts it before the other key events of the 1950s, such as the founding of Drum magazine in South Africa, in 1951 and the beginning of Frank McEwen’s intervention in Salisbury in 1954, for example.
unknown artist, Nigeria, undated (adquired in Oshogbo, Nigeria, 1961)
On the Met’s timeline, in terms of Portuguese Africa, Amâncio / Pancho Guedes appears as an architect working in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), but particularly as the organiser of “informal workshops for young artists”, highlighting Malangatana’s participation. The Lourenço Marques “summer school”, which was not actually a workshop for young black artists, occurred in January 1961 and was followed, a few months later, by Malangatana’s first solo exhibition and by a second workshop in Ibadan for art teachers from all over Nigeria, run by Julian Beinart and Pancho Guedes (who was not present from the beginning). These are included in a hectic sequence of events that would later become hidden, due to both the circumstances of the lengthy war of resistance against the change of history and the difficult rebuilding of the new country; it was also due to the shadows cast by Portuguese alienation towards overseas and colonial history and to the post-colonial prejudices against white people, who were, at the very least, suspected of paternalism.
Referring directly to the main testimony of the 1960s and current summaries of events of this particular decade, there are many references to Pancho Guedes on the list of patrons of new African art, or Neo-African art, and two important facts are clear: 1. Amâncio Guedes or Pancho Guedes -- A. Miranda Guedes, A. de Alpoim Guedes, Amâncio D'Alpoim Guedes, Amâncio de Miranda Guedes, and his full name Amâncio d'Alpoim Miranda Guedes (or even ADAM Guedes), in the various guises of his name that are found cluttering the various indexes, was one of the most inventive (or, in fact, the most inventive) of the (African or non-African) architects that were building in Africa, as well as one of the three or four recognised white mediators (almost all “expats”, unlike Pancho) who sought out and promoted contemporary African art in various places on the continent; 2. Lourenço Marques was, at the time (in the early 1960s and before the wave of arrests that followed the start of the war for independence), a dynamic city and one of Africa’s cultural capitals, due, by and large, to Pancho’s international contacts in areas with quicker communicability with the outside world, such as architecture and the visual arts, while the existing merits of writing in Portuguese were less easily noticed. (Pancho Guedes organised the publication of Nós Matámos o Cão-Tinhoso!, by Luis Bernardo Honwana in 1964, illustrated with fragments of drawings by Bertina Lopes. This was later reproduced in 1969 in an English translation by Dorothy Guedes, illustrated by Pedro Guedes, We Killed Mangy-Dog and Other Stories, ed. Heinemann, which gave rise to many other versions).
Returning to the Met’s summary, it seems that it was the exhibition in Nigeria that established Malangatana and indirectly Amâncio Guedes. In reality, the abovementioned Mbari Club in Ibadan, originates from the work done by Ulli Beier in Nigeria, since his arrival from Germany in 1950 and until his departure in 1967, during the secession of Biafra. However, it was also the combination of this researcher and activist with the intervention of Pancho Guedes and the dissemination of the work of Malangatana that extended the cultural reach of Lagos in Africa during the decade of independences. This was seen a few years ago in two important exhibitions: "Century City" at the Tate Modern (2001), in the chapter in which Orkui Enwesor wrote about that capital, and “The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994” (Museum Villa Stuck, Munich and international shows), from the same commissioner. One would need to know in great detail the facts that formed the foundations of the Lourenço-Marques – Ibadan and Oshogbo (Nigeria) axis, the Lourenço Marques – Salisbury (South Rodhesia) axis and the Lourenço Marques – South Africa axis in the early 1960s, which were established in particular by Pancho Guedes’ work with Ulli Beier, Frank McEwen and Julian Beinart, respectively.
The identification of Lourenço Marques as one of the focuses of an Africa undergoing change, despite the colonialist wake (at the time of the “euphoria of the 1960s” generally experienced on the continent – and the climate of relative expectation that accompanied the presence of Counter-Admiral Sarmento Rodrigues as Governor-General of Mozambique in the period between 1961 and 1964, until he was removed by Salazar), has two decisive factors that are verified by respective documentation: the external (and specifically European) reputation achieved by Amâncio Guedes, from 1961 onwards, as an architect with projects in Mozambique and his presence as a patron of new African art in the main areas where this art was sought, planned and disseminated; the rapid international projection of Malangatana as a painter, which meant, apart from recognition of his own work, him being an example of the viability and immediate success of a new African art based on its specific local roots and cultural environment. “Malangatana may have been the first African artist to find the short cut – to become a sophisticated artist, while bypassing education” in terms of the European model, according to Ulli Beier in Contemporary Art in Africa (Pall Mall Press, London, 1968, p. 72).
In the area of architecture, which can only be mentioned briefly here, there were important “Stiloguedes” buildings in Lourenço Marques at the turn of the decade, such as the Prometeu Apartment Blocks (1951-1953) and The smiling Lion (1954-1955); the Aeroplane House (1951) and the Três Girafas; the Casas Gémeas Matos Ribeiro, the Saipal Bakery and the Otto Barbosa Garage (1952); the Zambi Restaurant (1955), etc, and the Hotel in São Martinho de Bilene, which remained a draft project since 1951.
The international projection of the “young Luso-African from Witwatersrand University School of Architecture” (*2) reached as far as the cover of the most influential magazine in the profession, Architectural Review, in April, 1961, which published Julian Beinart’s text, "Amâncio Guedes. Architect of Lourenço Marques" (London, nº 129, pp. 240-250 – the cover is of the hotel for Bilene). This was followed by an article in The Times written by J.M. Richards (prestigious critic and editor of the newspaper itself): "Emergence of a new and original figure: remarkable work by Amâncio Guedes" (17th May). These were the results of his trip to Europe in 1960, the year which, despite not liking chronologies, Pancho refers to as "The annus mirabilis MCMLX" in the preface of Miguel Santiago’s book, Pancho Guedes - Metamorfoses Espaciais (ed. Caleidoscópio, 2007). "On my return to Mozambique, I’m a different man”, he says at the end of this text.
Pancho unprecedented presence at the 1961 São Paulo Biennial as the individual representative of a country called Mozambique, made official by the Mozambique Tourism and Information Centre, is worth mentioning as the invitation to be part of Team 10 and his participation at the Royaumont Abbey Meeting, in 1962. He became known in France via the magazine Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, with a self-introduction called "Y aura-t-il une architecture?" (June-July, 1962, pp. 42-48 - translated in Pancho Guedes, 2007 (*3) , as “There will be Architecture”). It is also very significant that this was an issue dedicated to the “Fantastic Architectures”, in the dual sense that it covered both the outsiders (such as Facteur Cheval), as well as Gaudi, the great innovators (Mendelsohn, Le Corbusier, Wright) and visionaries (Pascal Hauserman, Bruce Goff, Paolo Soleri), after the "Visionary Architecture" exhibition, organized by the MOMA in 1960. External recognition had a slight metropolitan echo in the magazine Arquitectura (Lisbon, nº 79, July, 1963): “Miranda Guedes: arquitecto de Lourenço Marques”. Followed by the collaboration in World Architecture (John Donat, ed., London), as “Mozambique contributing editor”, A.D.A. Guedes, in the volumes relating to 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Congress at his feet
On the international circuit, Pancho established himself both as an architect and patron and disseminator of African art at the same time. In Paris, with the publication of the article by A. de Alpoim Guedes, "Les Mapogga", about the painted houses of the Ndebele people of South Africa, which featured on the cover of another magazine directed by André Bloc, Aujourd'hui: Art et Architecture (Paris, nº 37, June 1962, pp. 58-65). Although not exactly revelatory, the publication is considered groundbreaking - “the first to highlight the architectural and sculptural formalism of the dwellings” (*4) – which was dealt with in greater depth by authors close to him, Elizabeth Schneider and Peter Rich.
The patronage of Malangatana had started in 1959, the Lourenço Marques “summer school” dates back to January 1961, the critical analysis of his work occurred in the magazine Black Orpheus (nº 10, 1962), which was founded in Ibadan by Ulli Beier, and the article was written by Julian Beinart.
Another important event was the First International Congress of African Culture, organised by Frank McEwen to discuss the aesthetics of contemporary African art in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe; 1st – 11th August, 1962). Director of the National Gallery since 1956, after a decade in Paris as a British Council delegate, McEwen founded an workshop school, where the tradition of “Afro-expressionism” was recreated with primitivist and modern ambition.
Frank McEwen, Bird?, 18 cm (signed)
Among the 37 delegates, there was (*5) Alfred Barr from MoMA in New York; William Fagg from the British Museum; Jean Laude from the Sorbonne; Roland Penrose, a surrealist painter and president of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London, accompanied by photographer Lee Miller; James Porter from Howard University, Washington; Udo Kultermann, author of various books on modern architecture; the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara; John Russel, a critic for The Sunday Times at the time (see 12-08-62 edition); Hugh Tracey, South African musicologist and the Nigerian historian and vice-chancellor of the University of Ife, Saburi O. Biobaku, who inaugurated the congress as a message of support from Nigeria - Ulli Beier, who was a less institutional figure, was absent, however. The Ford Foundation was the main benefactor, and the second congress for Rio de Janeiro in 1964 was immediately announced as part of a biennial series planned by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which also sponsored the magazine Black Orpheus. The geo-strategic context at the time was the Cold War and, in 1967, the denouncing of U.S. funding carelessly channelled through the CIA would lead to the end of various worthwhile activities.
Presented as an architect and promoter of African contemporary art, Amâncio / Pancho Guedes was one of the speakers at the opening session. The speech he later gave on his own works as an architect and artist in Africa (“Things are not what they seem to be – the auto-biofarsical hour” - translated in Pancho Guedes, 2007), was introduced with Tzara’s Dadaist complicity (idem). At the inauguration, Pancho Guedes stated that he was unaware what theme Frank McEwen wanted him to speak about: “I have got quite a number of things to talk about. One of them is on my things (…) The second one could be on “Another Architecture – an Architecture of Less Windows and More Feelings” [feeling, in the Proceedings , but the author now prefers the plural]. The third could be something on the Mapoggas. The fourth could be about some African painters from Lourenço Marques and perhaps some poetry reading of Malangatana's poems, which I have brought along already translated into English. A fifth could be on Gaudi, and I suppose there could be some more”; subjects that were explored in other sessions, on other occasions.
Rhodesian artist and Frank McEwen’s collaborator Pat Pearce recalled the congress at a later date in a text on the “Early Days of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe”: “One of the most interesting events of the congress was, for me, the appearance of Pancho Guedes, an architect from Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) who showed slides of his work in Mozambique. In fact, in John Russell's words, "He brought the Congress to its feet with a dazzling and poetical account of how fantasy must be brought back into Africa's architecture." I felt he had caught the same essence in African culture that Picasso had done before him, only much more so; that endearing simplicity, humour, and make believe that is such a part of African art and life. Another of my jobs was to change Tristan Tzara's return ticket, so that he could visit Lorenzo Marques and see Pancho Guedes' work, which was not only architecture. Guedes also designed and made toy boats and produced embroidery of remarkable skill, all in a world of fantasia.“ (in “Gallery”, Harare, ed. Gallery Delta, nº 15, March, 1998, pp. 20-23 – http://www.gallerydelta.com/publications.html , accessed on 1-11-2010)
New forms of art
On the Met’s timeline and other sources, Malangatana is mentioned as one of the participating African artists (alongside Vincent Kofi, from Ghana, and the Nigerian Ben Enwonwu). This is a mistake, as his work was only part of the Mozambican representation sent by Pancho Guedes, alongside Abdias Muhlanga (a recent discovery, whose later career would be a troubled one) and the forgotten Metine Macie, as well as Augusto Naftal and Alberto Mati, two very young artists with no formal training whatsoever from whom Pancho regularly bought drawings. Now is the first time that a significant part of this representation can be seen again.
The exhibition running in parallel with the Congress was a huge show of African art and the largest ever undertaken, according to Time Magazine (28-09-1962). It began with the cultures that preceded the arrival of European influences and continued up until “the non-traditional African art of the 1960s” (The London Times, 12-08-1962). At that time, while “to most white colonizers, African art has always been a mumbo-jumbo sort of thing, proof that the native African lacked cultural instincts”, the Rhodesia Herald said it saw "nothing but crudity, primitiveness, and savagery”. McEwen aimed to show that "the entire modern movement in Western art owes a debt to primitive Africa”. "It is a fact that very few artists of contemporary style do not possess some well digested but evident influences of Africa." (Time Magazine (*6) ). At the time, Barr bought the first modern African works of art for MoMA.
“Neo-African” music and dance were also on the agenda, and Pancho Guedes was accompanied by the best orchestra of Timbila Players, the “Chopi 40-man Xylophone Orchestra” (with the support of the Mozambique Tourist Authority). It was a major musical success; however, Régulo Waahosi Felisberto Machatine Zandamela, who said at the opening session that he represented “the indigenous folklore of the Portuguese province of Mozambique”, caused a measure of controversy by performing the Portuguese national anthem, like he always did, during a programme that was supposed to be free of national references.
There was no direct follow up to the Congress, and the Proceedings, which form an exhaustive and rich volume, only reached pre-publication (?) at a much later date, with no circulation to speak of. Frank McEwen (1907-1994) focussed on the Museum and his African Workshop School, which promoted the Zimbabwe stone sculpture movement. Later, he became persona non grata for the independent white minority government of Ian Smith (1965) and eventually resigned in 1973.
There are three other editions that mark the decade (in addition to what was published in the local press, which cannot be accessed), and the 1960s culminated in the exhibition “Contemporary African Art” at the Camden Art Centre, London, in August-September, 1969 – the first attempt, outside of Africa, at bringing together a comprehensive international representation that also included handicraft from various regions. Four Mozambicans participated, although no reproductions featured in the catalogue: Malangatana and Mankew (both with mostly drawings), Chissano and M. O. Mabyaya (Mundau Oblino Mabjaia – Magaia ou Mabyaya, ou também Oblino), who were sculptors. Pancho Guedes is referred to a number of times in the catalogue but actually took no part in the initiative. On this occasion, the market welcomed artists from African countries, although the following collective panorama took until 1977, at Howard University in Washington, and 1979, at Berlin’s Staatlichen Kunsthalle – see “Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List”, compilation by Janet L. Stanley for the Smithsonian Institution Libraries ( http://www.sil.si.edu/SILPublications/ModernAfricanArt/newmaaintro.cfm ). Integration into a global forum would only come in 1989, with "Les Magiciens de la Terre".
On the informal network of mediators, patrons and benefactors, which during the 1960s played a crucial role in training and launching artists (*7) , the most influential figure was the German, Ulli Beier (b. 1922 – active in Nigeria until 1967, and then in Papua New Guinea), who was also intensely involved in the fields of African literature and oral poetry.
In Art in Nigeria 1960 (Cambridge University Press, 1960), in the year of independence, Beier responded to the allegations that prevailed among appreciators of “traditional African art”, “that Africa produced interesting art, as long as the tribal organisation was intact... Modern African artists are European trained and bad, because they are merely copying Europe instead of 'going back to their own traditions' ”. Using local examples, Beier shows “that the situation is a great deal more complicated than that; that in Africa, new forms have been evolved independently of European teaching and influence; that traditional art is not as dead as most people think; that the intellectual African artist cannot simply be asked to 'go back' to his traditions...” (p. 4, Introduction). Included in this issue is the work of European artists and architects in Nigeria, with the argument that one cannot describe the Paris School without mentioning non-French artists. All of the topics discussed over the decade, including production for tourists (“airport art”, according to F. McEwen) occur in this context, in a more operational than theoretical mode, and with subsequent efficiency.
Tradition in a new environment
After having written about Malangatana in 1962, with the help of Dori and Pancho Guedes and an autobiographical account of himself (Black Orpheus, nº 10), Julian Beinart published the essay “Visual Education for Emerging Cultures: The African Opportunity”, in the book The Education of Vision, which was the first of six from the series “Vision + Value” (New York, ed. George Braziller, 1965 (*8). This was an influential anthology organised by the Hungarian emigrant Gyorgy Kepes, professor of the New Bauhaus of Chicago, who, at the time, was setting up the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This text was particularly geared towards the western context of reflection upon art education, art and design.
In contrast to the context of Francophile Africa, where the main interest was in literary works and an idea of blackness that involved the relatively contentious appropriation of European modernity, certain mediators, located further south, questioned the possible evolution of local cultures and of their own major artistic traditions, free from the subordination of European models, which were viewed in a critical way in terms of the visual arts. Within the framework of the inevitable death of the tribal art which was characteristic of traditional societies (even via tourist reproductions), new and spontaneous forms of artistic production (and also sophisticated forms of syncretism in the case of "natural synthesis" proposed by Uche Okeke in the Zaria School) were being sought without any nativist essentialism (in the cases of Beier, Guedes and Beinart).
“Among those replacing the religious artist of the tribe, there are young people who are trying to face a new artistic existence without renouncing their past as worthless. For these, the new post-tribal frame of reference, an international patronage, and the new range of techniques and ideas are accepted as part of the challenge to artists everywhere today; but, unlike many others, they benefit from a heritage which is still very close”, wrote Beinart (p. 192). Ibrahim el Salahi, a Sudanese artist who graduated in Europe, and the above mentioned Uche Okeke, in Nigeria, work within a modern context for an international audience and are inspired by their own cultures. Apart from Sidney Kumalo, the South African sculptor who had no formal education and who participated in the Lourenço Marques “summer school”, the best example is, again, Malangatana: “He is one of a new generation of artists who are beginning a tradition which bridges gaps between old and new, country and city, culture and culture” (p. 193). “Malangatana's paintings are interpretations of a way of life in which mysticism and fantasy play a large functional role. Although there is a temptation to call his paintings Surrealists, his vision in for him straightforward and real, unlike the intellectual game that it is for many sophisticated European Surrealist painters” (p. 193).
This text deals with the identification of “the first physical results of a transition”, to ponder the future of visual art teaching in Africa, “The first aim of teaching in the visual arts in Africa should be the continuation and expansion of a strong folk tradition” - “Teaching would, in this way, act as research into discovering which traditions of a people remain when their environment changes” (p. 194). This approach incorporates a critical view of how European art was made academic in the 1950s (between the crisis of realisms and the systematisation of informal, expressionist, lyrical and geometrical abstractions), which accompanied the plural break away of the Cobra movement, interest in Art Brut and the search for “other figurations”, which were found with Pop Art (another popular and “low culture” option).
In reality, this was all about discovering viable and innovative practices in Africa, in order for it to appear in the international context in its own right, like in the case of the personal work of a Georgina Beier or Pancho Guedes. The intuitive judgement, “the intuitive vision” which William Fagg spoke of, would be “virtually absent from modern art” - There is still time for Africans to save it” (quoted by Beinart, p. 200).
For Beinart, this was about finding the creative force found in the origins of traditional art; those recognised as an innate ability that was adapted to new circumstances and which appeared as a new folk art (different to tribal art), produced by anonymous artists for an urban proletariat, who find avenues for their creativity in new social needs and new environments (p. 187). “Any education in the visual arts in Africa needs to come to terms with the apparent dichotomy between the uses of traditional and new outside sources” (p. 194).
The search for folk art (from cement sculptures to advertising hoardings), and mural paintings in particular, is a common interest among Beier, Guedes and Beinart. The attention given to the murals that were the result of the distribution of paints to cheer up the cane shacks (o Caniço) in Lourenço Marques when the Portuguese president visited in 1956, or the decoration of the Hotel Chuabo in Quelimane (a project of Arménio Losa’s, assisted and adapted by Arch. Figueirinhas, in 1962 (*9) , are part of the same sequence.
Beinart said: “Another way of building bridges to allow the strength of a folk tradition to cross and adapt to new ideas and techniques can be seen in the work done by Amancio Guedes, a Portuguese architect and painter, with relatively untrained people in Mozambique. Guedes, who has been attracted by the spontaneous ability of these people, runs an architectural practice using only people whom he has trained himself. In his backyard works a woodcarver whom Guedes found working on a building site, a bricklayer who made murals, the painter Malangatana, servants who draw, and recently a needleworker who embroiders cloth. Guedes uses some of these people to work with him on his own projects, and the size and quality of the output not only says much for Guedes' creative and inspirational powers, but shows that such teamwork can succeed and that studio technique can be an important educational method in Africa” (p. 194).
The other four summer schools that Beinart organised in various places after the experience of Lourenço Marques “were primarily held for practising artists and art teachers. Their purpose was to shock people out of their conventional attitudes”, said Ulli Beier in the 1968 book (p. 105). According to Beinart, the two 1961 “schools” in Lourenço Marques and Ibadan were geared towards students with a certain degree of training, and secondly, towards artists and art teachers, “although offering limited opportunity for experimentation, nevertheless provided valuable indications as to what could be done” (p. 195) “The aim of these schools was to create, for a short time, an environment of complete liberation and intense work, in which young people with different backgrounds and varying amounts of previous training could find personal solutions to set problems” (p. 196).
A city and an atmosphere
The “summer school" of January 1961 was not set up to train black artists and originated from an informal course for students at the University of Witwatersrand. However, the workers who were still finishing the building works at the school (Piramidal Nursery School) where the sessions were held, joined the group (after being encouraged to do so) and produced their own versions of the themes, participating using non-academic material (Beinart, idem). “They came and made marvellous drawings themselves, much better drawings than the students”, said Pancho Guedes (*10) .
Malangatana plays a crucial part in Ulli Beier’s book Contemporary Art in Africa (1968, German edition 1967), occupying 12 pages, with 7 reproductions of paintings (many of which belonged to Beier’s collection, now at Iwalewa House, Institut fur Afrika Studien in Bayreuth). However, the presence of Pancho Guedes is very important, despite there not being any images of his architecture or other works, in contrast to the cases of English artist Georgina Beier and the Austrian Susanne Wenger, both of whom were living and working in Nigeria.
"In Lourenço Marques, Salisbury and Oshogbo,... the meeting of European and African artists sparked off new creative activity and new 'schools' of painting, if not movements” (p. 131, in the chapter “Metamorphosis”). “The charming and attractive town of Lourenço Marques seems an appropriate setting for the emergence of new African artists. Not only Pancho Guedes' buildings serve as a constant inspiration but there is a lively African community which paints the walls of its shantytown shacks with delightfully playful designs. Even if the charm of these popular paintings is very superficial, they are an indication of the reserves of talent waiting to be tapped” (p. 75, opening the chapter “The Great Excitement”).
Starting the chapter “Finding a short cut” – from traditional African art to modern forms of expression, Beier refers to previous and current workshops or studio communities in Africa that “have set up to deliberately create a set of circumstances, an atmosphere, in which such a development could take place” (p. 59). Beier adds: “the most successful were Pancho Guedes in Lourenço Marques and Frank McEwen in Salisbury”.
After mentioning the work of Pierre Lods in Potopoto (Brazzaville), he considers that “more favourable circumstances probably prevailed in the relative isolation of Lourenço Marques” and presents Pancho Guedes as an architect and painter interested in the activities of young local artists: “To visit his house is like visiting a studio: painters, sculptors, and embroiderers are at work all over the place. Guedes holds no formal classes, but encourages, criticises, buys work and sometimes provides a monthly allowance that will enable the artist to work full time without financial worries” (p. 62).
After 1962, Pancho Guedes did not take on a deliberate and continued role as a patron of new African art. Things just happened from the time he was involved in various roles at the Núcleo de Arte (Art Criticism and Theory section) in 1954. “There were a lot of other people hovering around, there were many painters” (Pancho Guedes, Vitruvius Mozambicanus, 2009, p. 27), especially around his studio, which would be a constant informal workshop, with its local artisans and artists. However, “the worst that could have happened was an art school appearing in Lourenço Marques” (personal statement, 1-11-2010).
Alongside the priority he gave to his own work as an architect, painter and sculptor, Pancho Guedes became interested in a number of African artists or artists (black and white) temporarily resident in Africa, whose work he supported and collected. He invested in situations distanced from the idea of an artistic career or new mainstreams (“African styles”), preferring uniqueness and idiosyncratic production, seeking out popular and amateur artists – considering himself an amateur artist (personal statement). The interest in the embroidery done by Mozambican soldiers from the barracks opposite his house, support for Relógio in 1964, his liking for a “naive” artist like Rosa Passos, long after the defence of Tito Zungu (an artist exhibited in 1982 in his Architecture department at Johannesburg University), are successive episodes of the same story that includes the collecting and purchase of traditional pieces and particularly the acquisition of folk art from the markets of Lourenço Marques.
When talking about his own career in an interview for the Italian magazine Abitare, Peter Rich, a former student, award-winning architect and now also a professor at Witwatersrand, spontaneously described him thus: "Pancho was a great mentor because was a painter, a sculptor, a Dadaist, a Surrealist, and he had an incredible energy. When we were at school, we were very lucky; everyone who was a student or member of staff somehow exceeded their potential by about 300%, making you believe you could do anything and everything and the more you did the better you were. You could shoot a film, create sculpture, paint, perform in a play and make architecture as well”. (*11)
1 – Pancho Guedes and Ulli Beier, “Interview, Johannesburg, September 19th 1980”, in 2009 CCB exhibition catalogue, p. 27, Pancho Guedes, Vitruvius Mozambicanus, Berardo Museum Collection, ed. Pedro Guedes, Lisbon, 2009.
2 - Isabel Maria Rodrigues, “Vers une promenade architecturale: Le Corbusier - Martienssen – Guedes, O Leão que Ri - Team 10”, Massilia 2004 - 18, Le Corbusier studies Yearbook, http://upcommons.upc.edu/revistes/handle/2099/2831 .
3 - Pancho Guedes, Manifestos, Papers, Lectures, Publications, ed. Ordem dos Arquitectos, Lisbon, 2007.
4 - Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, “Inventer une nouvelle illusion: le cas renommé des Southern Ndebele”, http://www.international.icomos.org/victoriafalls2003/papers.htm, on 3-11-2010.
5 – Proceedings of the First International Congress of African Culture, held at the National Gallery, Salisbury, Rhodesia.
6 – Adele Aldridge, “Frank McEwen: Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Rhodesia”, 2007, http://www.adeleart.com/McEwen/Articles.html
7 - " The independence decade of 1955-65 saw increased interaction among African Artists, especially within the continent. Several factors made these contacts possible, but the three most significant were the founding of art schools; the work of some expatriates; and the political and cultural awareness heightened by the apostles of Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism and Negritude", Chika Okeke, "Modern African Art" in “The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994”, 2001, p. 32. Later, the author repeats the version that Amâncio Guedes “organized informal workshops for young artists” (p. 34). The same catalogue includes an important self-referential account by Ulli Beier, "A Moment of Hope: Cultural Developments in Nigeria before the First Military Coup", pp. 45-49. For see an excellent first approach, Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, Contemporary African Art, Thames & Hudson, 1999.
8 – Exist a French translation, “Enseignement visuel pour des cultures naissantes: l'opportunité africaine", in Education de la Vision, Bibliotheque de synthèses, 1967, Ed. de la Connaissance, Brussels.
9 – This and other cases are also mentioned by Jorge Dias and Margot Dias, in A Arte Popular em Portugal, Ilhas Adjacentes e Ultramar, ed. Verbo, Lisbon 1968-1975, pp. 153-161.
10 – See footnote 1, p. 28.
11 - Peter Rich, in Oana Stanescu, “Mandela's Yards - Community architecture”, Abitare, Milan, nº 501, April 2010 ( http://www.abitare.it/highlights/mandelas-yards/ )
In AS ÁFRICAS DE PANCHO GUEDES. Colecção de Dori e Amâncio Guedes / The Africas of Pancho Guedes. The Dori and Amâncio Guedes Collection, Lisbon, 17/12/2010 - 08/03/2011