Explored through the context of two cultures — those of her native and adopted countries — repeated motifs of female sexuality and identity emerge through Manuela Sambo’s paintings. Saturated in monochromatic colour, Sambo’s depictions of the female form follow the almond-shaped contours characteristic of the Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani, who was noted for his mask-like faces.
Sambo’s pictorial language is considered to draw profoundly upon elements of Western art history, in a stylistic influence attributed to the representation of women in Renaissance, Mannerist and Cubist painting. That she was inspired by Modigliani’s delineation of eyes is a double reflection of sorts given that Modigliani himself was influenced by African sculpture, as were the pioneers of early Cubism who were said to draw from the formal idioms of primitivism and African tribal masks. Her more recent works allude to the Pompeii frescoes that were rediscovered in the 18th century, while the execution of their forms resonate with the shapes and hues of the cultural traditions of Angola.