Ernest Mancoba is arguably the most important modern artist from South Africa, and perhaps Africa. Throughout Mancoba’s life, he searched for the universal in art and humanity in the belief that art was ‘a means to favour a greater consciousness in Man, which … is part of the struggle for any human liberation’.
Throughout his life, Mancoba was dedicated to recreating a single image, loosely based on the human form as represented by the West African Kota reliquary figures. As time went by, its expression was reduced further and further in his search for the purest essence of the figurative form. In his words: ‘In my painting, it is difficult to say whether the central form is figurative or abstract. But that does not bother me. What I am concerned with is whether the form can bring to life and transmit, with the strongest effect and by the lightest means possible, the being, which has been in me and aspires to expression in the stuff, or any material that is at hand.’