Malangatana was born in Matalana, Marracuene, Maputo Province, in 1936. He was raised amid the myths and realities of Mozambique, as the assistant to a healer when his mother was beset by mental illness. He became a servant and tennis ball-boy, struggling to earn a living. While working in Lourenço Marques, Malangatana went to evening classes to broaden his knowledge of painting, and, in 1959, he was noticed by the Portuguese architect, Miranda Guedes, who offered him a studio and a regular income, so that he could devote himself to painting. He was arrested by the Portuguese colonial police in 1965, and imprisoned for two years for alleged connections with FRELIMO. With the collapse of colonialism he devoted himself entirely to the political process of his country and did not return to the arts until 1985. His works feature in many museums and galleries around the world, and he has exhibited, both in oneman and group shows, worldwide.