Mozambique was a Portuguese colony from the 16th century onwards, famous for its slave trade and abundant natural resources.
The exploitation of the local population led to a long struggle for an independent Mozambique. When the colonial era finally ended in 1975, the Frelimo political movement assumed power and set as its aim to industrialise the country following the model of the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic.
Frelimo was opposed by the Renamo movement, supported by the West and in particular by Mozambique's neighbour South Africa. Occasional unrest gradually turned into violent military conflicts, which then triggered a long-lasting civil war. The war ended after seventeen years and took over one million lives, while nearly six million inhabitants fled the country.
The ambassador Željko Jeglič and his wife Nevenka Marija, an economist, lived in Mozambique from 1978 to 1982, i.e. in the period when the conflict raged only in the border areas. In spite of the critical conditions they could travel quite a lot around the country and they met with very different people and discovered their rich culture. They were charmed by the very varied artistic creativity of the local artists. During their travels various African object was collected and part of their collection was donated to the Slovene Ethnographic Museum a couple of years ago (two mapiko masks and a collection of combs). During their explorations of Mozambican art they also came into contact with the famous sculptor Alberto Chissano.
Their acquaintance developed into a lasting friendship. After having been friends for years, the Željko Jeglič had the idea to invite the renowned Chissano to Slovenia. In 1981 he created sculptures for the "14th Meeting of Naive Artists of Yugoslavia" in Trebnje. Chissano made a wood sculpture which he named “Friendship”. Also, on the occasion of his visit in Slovenia he donated three wooden sculptures to the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. In the same year Alberto Chissano participated in an international art competition in Belgrade and was awarded the first and second prize for his sculptures.
Alberto Chissano (1935–1994) is today recognized as one of the greatest Mozambican sculptor of the 20th century. Although he was self-taught and had no academic education, his works are exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. His talent of working with wood, especially fragrant sandalwood was beyond perfection. His creative energy shaped a range of unusual creatures from mighty tree trunks or forked branches, which at first sight seem timeless in an unknown space. But in spite of the expressive stylization, these figures are often the very images of reality, as they reflect the tragedy and agony brought onto him by the absurd, vicious civil war and famine in Mozambique. Behind the distorted bodies, elongated faces, absent looks, or sarcastic smiles in the sculptures of this sensitive artist lives his hope for the future of his people and the whole African continent. The exhibited wooden sculptures embody the reality and art of modern Africa and they are art from the artist's heart. And that truly is Chissano.
Dr. Marko Frelih