Humano e a Natureza: Cristiano Mangovo

6 November - 7 December 2021
The exhibition Humano e a Natureza (Humans and Nature), questions this hierarchy. Tainted with revolt and anchored in the pandemic context, Cristiano Mangovo's works bear witness to an unbalanced relationship and regrets the Anthropocene: the Age of Humans.

In a climate of environmental crisis, where human activity is causing irreversible climate change, Angolan artist Cristiano Mangovo brings to bear the dominant relation of humans over nature. If it has been taken for granted for centuries, it has continuously upset a broader earthly equilibrium. By confronting visitors with this reality, Cristiano Mangovo takes them on to ask: why do humans have the power of life or death over nature, over other species – and do they? 


The exhibition Humano e a Natureza (Humans and Nature), questions this hierarchy. Tainted with revolt and anchored in the pandemic context, Cristiano Mangovo's works bear witness to an unbalanced relationship and regrets the Anthropocene: the Age of Humans. As the American biologist Edward O. Wilson noted in 1993, "Man has become a geophysical force, swiftly changing the atmosphere and climate, as well as the composition of the world’s fauna and flora.” Thus, Cristiano Mangovo deplores the fact that nature is taken as a resource: a raw material to be exploited, rather than a subject considered as equal with which we could establish a relationship, based on respect and benevolence. He says: “I continuously question myself on the way humans claim and display their superiority over other living creatures. It’s about changing our perspective and considering any form of life as having its own value, one to be respected.”


Whilst artists such as Joseph Beuys, Pierre Huyghe or Anicka Yi extend their reflection on the environment by creating immersive ecosystems that are constantly evolving through organic, physical and sometimes even chemical and sensitive exploration, Cristiano Mangovo rethinks the Earth's equilibrium through his painting. He relies on his very own figuration to convey his messages as clearly as possible. His paintings are based on a personal pictorial language in which he plays with reality. He composes new but recognisable beings by combining universal visual elements. His composite creatures, hybrid assemblages of human, animal and vegetable elements, are all new forms, emerging from the scattered bodies. White ties, sleeves and trousers randomly dress the reassembled members. As viewers attempt to make sense of what they see, a diffuse yet perceptible balance emanates from the fantastical creatures, suggesting a raw, elementary and organic harmony between men and nature. Cristiano Mangovo's imaginary and fabulous characters emerge from the chaos in a lively, almost festive movement. They carry an unexpected message of hope and joy, suggesting a possible renewal and balance, where man and nature coexist in peace.


The double mouth is omnipresent in Cristiano Mangovo's art and provides his work with a political dimension. This motif finds its roots in the regime led by José Eduardo dos Santos, president of Angola – Mangovo’s homeland – from 1979 to 2017. Condemning an unsaid dictatorial regime where public opinion was strictly controlled, Mangovo uses his two-mouthed characters as the vocal objectors of this censorship, freeing them from lasting repression. His canvases fight ignorance and raise awareness. The artist who considers himself a "bird reporter" hence becomes a messenger. He explains: "Like the bird, I can enter everywhere: the house of the poor, as well as the house of the kings. I can listen to what is happening and pass on the message. Above all, I try to convey a message of hope through everyday life." Thus, rather than denouncing the consequences inherent in human activity, Cristiano Mangovo invites his audience to act. Through his large-scale canvas Dragon vs Mwana Mpwo, he speaks out against the Chinese agribusiness’s implementation throughout Africa and regrets the ways in which economic and political stakes often overtake environmental concerns. By underlining the loss and overexploitation of land and other natural resources for the benefit of a smaller and ephemeral financial profit, the artist criticizes the exploitation of nature for political ends to the detriment of a lost harmony. 


Ultimately, if Humano e a Natureza addresses ongoing challenges posed by the environment, Mangovo’s painting points specifically at consensus and common human behaviors with the aim to better deconstruct them. He invites his viewers to adopt a repairing rationale, anchored in the establishment of a new harmony.