John Muafangejo: Hope and Optimism

Selected by Mireya and Valentina

John Muafangejo’s linocuts featured in an installation in the Royal Festival Hall foyer between September and October in 1987

The artist was born in Namibia, and his work showed social history and the ordinary happenings in everyday lives from sub-Saharan Africa. Although Muafangejo denied that his work was political, saying ‘It is the world that is political’, it illuminates and focuses observations on the social and political realities of contemporary Southern African society.

Depicted simply in black and white, his work was designed to not ‘tire the eyes’ and was often accompanied with inscribed text. This emphasised his deeply spiritual and personal engagement with his material. ‘Hope and Optimism’, a poster he created as a 70th birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela, became internationally recognised as a symbol and inspired many artists and projects around the world.

At the time very little was known about the art of Namibia in London. The exhibition helped bring Muafangejo’s intimate knowledge of the social and political situation in Southern Africa and his message of ‘hope and optimism’ to the city.