Angelitos Negros/ Black Angels

Pablo Menfesawe
6 May 1997 to 14 June 1997

This exhibition represented a series of portraits in which the artist uses photography to explore the angelic qualities of his subjects. They were inspired by the words of Roberta Flack: “Why do you always paint white angels?”

Menfesawe-Imani succeeded in creating images of modern-day African icons in this body of work.

“Pablo Menfesawe-Imani’s current body of photographic work refutes crude binary notions of “good” and “evil” and deals with an area which is of continual fascination to human-kind; the Earth-bound angel (two recent films, “The Preacher’s Wife” and “Michael” testify to this popular appeal). He takes his cue from a 1968 song by Roberta Flack called Angelitos Negros, a Spanish folk song which asks renaissance painters “why do you always paint white virgins. Paint beautiful black angels.” And that is precisely what Menfesawe has done. Understanding angels as creators, protectors, and sources of inspiration, and not winged cherubs or virtuous seraphs, he has taken a series of photographs. These black and white portraits are of close friends who he feels have those attributes and who are black, ordinary yet deeply spiritual. He describes his sitters as ‘intense, passionate and profound’ and indeed the photographs convey those characteristics.” (Melanie Keen, March 1997)