PANEL: Mancoba and Other Artists

Title: Sonja Ferlov Mancoba and Ernest Mancoba: “… Only through each other can we live and breathe, and no-one creates alone …”

copyright the speaker. To reference the talk: Dorthe Aagesen, “Ernest Mancoba – Dialogue on his Art & Words” 10 Feb 2020, A4 Foundation, Cape Town

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba (1911-1984) is a significant sculptor in 20th Century Danish art history. A global outlook runs through all of Ferlov Mancoba’s art and life. At an early stage of her career she developed a plastic language that grew out of, among other things, a keen interest in non-Western culture. The seeds of that interest were sown back in the 1920s, when as a young girl Ferlov Mancoba was introduced to African art in the home of the Danish collector Carl Kjersmeier. She retained this enthusiasm all through her life, further nourished by her partner, Ernest Mancoba. The couple met in Paris in 1938, married in 1942 and stayed together for the rest of their lives with their son, Wonga, born 1946.

Ferlov Mancoba felt part of a wider human network that spanned many ages and cultures. Art from African cultures was a particular source of inspiration, but so too was art from Egypt, the earliest periods of ancient Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, the Nordic countries and other regions and cultures. For Ferlov Mancoba, the main objective was to metaphorically ‘go hand-in-hand’ and create together. As a counterpoint to the selfish, soulless and materialistic world in which she felt she lived, she strove in her art to promote the great community of man across nations and cultures. In a letter she describes her position in these terms: ‘… Only through each other can we live and breathe, and no-one creates alone …’. This paper will present Sonja Ferlov Mancoba’s art and thought while discussing the significance of her exchange with Ernest Mancoba.

Dorthe Aagesen is Chief Curator and Senior Researcher with the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the SMK, the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, where she has worked since 1999. She oversees the Museum’s modern collection, and has been engaged in ambitious reinstallations, while also organizing temporary exhibitions. Before 1999 she served as a curator for four years at Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. During her museum tenures she has contributed to fifteen exhibitions and published numerous articles covering a range of subjects within twentieth-century European art. Ms. Aagesen was responsible for the major retrospective exhibition on Sonja Ferlov Mancoba shown at SMK and the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2019. Other exhibitions she has organized or co-organized at the SMK include “Asger Jorn – Restless Rebel (2014)”; “Henri Matisse – In Search of True Painting” (2012, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou); “Wilhelm Freddie – Stick the Fork in Your Eye!” (2009); “André Derain. Outsider in French Art” (2007, with the Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrarra); and “Avant-Garde in Danish and European Art 1909-1919” (2002). She is an editor and contributor to “A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1900-1925”, “Rodopi”, 2012 and has written on topics such as Pablo Picasso, Kasimir Malevitj, Marcel Duchamp, Danish culture during World War I, the Académie Moderne in Paris, and the history of the Danish Royal Academy of Art. She is currently working on a project on German Expressionism, Anthropology and Colonialism in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam that will lead to an exhibition at both venues in 2021.