Ernest Mancoba

  • Born 1904 in Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Died 2002 in Paris, France

Ernest Mancoba was one of the first successful black modern artists in South Africa. He began woodcarving in 1925 while studying at Grace Dieu, an Anglican teachers college, and produced a modernist relief, African Madonna, in 1929. In 1935 Mancoba moved to Cape Town, where he joined a group of Trotskyite artists. With the encouragement of artist Gerard Sekoto, he completed his art studies at the University of Fort Hare. Mancoba received a scholarship to study at the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (National School of Decorative Arts) in Paris in 1938. There he met Danish artist Sonja Ferlov, whom he married in 1942. During the German occupation of France in World War II, Mancoba was sent to an internment camp in St. Denis in 1940. The couple moved to Denmark in 1947 and became involved with the artist collective CoBrA (1948–51), of which Mancoba was a founding member. The avant-garde group, which included Karel Appel (1921–2006) and Asger Jorn (1914–1973), embraced Marxism and tachism. Mancoba abandoned sculpture in the 1950s and turned to painting, creating loose, abstract forms related to West African Kota reliquary figures. After CoBrA stopped exhibiting, Mancoba and his family resettled in Paris; he became a French citizen in 1961.

Artworks by Ernest Mancoba in the exhibition