Ole studied African American culture and cinema at the University of California, Los Angeles, and film at the Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, American Film Institute, Los Angeles. A versatile artist, he is distinguished for his photography, documentary films, and large-scale multimedia installations, through which he explores the textures of life in marginal urban sites.
His films, including Railway Workers (1975) and Rhythm of N'gola Rhythms (1978), examine the role of organized labor and popular culture in the struggle for Angolan political independence. In his early photography, such as the "Houses of Xicala” series (1976), and the various sculptural installations created since the critically acclaimed Margem da Zona Limité: Township Wall (1994–95), Ole suggests a link between failed modernist social engineering and urban dystopia in postcolonial Africa and across the globe. Walls in his work become visual texts and archives of the bare lives of inhabitants of shacks and makeshift buildings located at the margins of Angolan cities and towns. The more recent wall constructions suggest resilience and creativity in their assertive colorfulness (reminiscent of Pop Art), as well as the defiant impulse to humanize even the harshest urban slums.
Ole's project for Who Knows Tomorrow, inspired by his Township Wall, covers one exterior arm of the Hamburger Bahnhof building. Although the finished installation is reminiscent of the improvised and precarious shanty constructions one might find at the fringes of so-called "Third World” cities, the fact that all the materials come from Berlin points to the often unspoken squalid living conditions of immigrant populations existing in the outskirts of contemporary "First World” cities. The juxtaposition of the quiet decorum of the building's neo-classical architecture and the visual rebelliousness of his installation speaks to the continuing tensions between dominant and established ciphers of tradition, civilization and the nationhood on the one hand, and on the other, competing, unstable forces resulting from the inevitable existence of disenfranchised and disaffected immigrant cultures and peoples in the heart of Europe.
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
Contrary Alignment, Goethe-Institut, Nairobi (2009); Hidden Pages, Iwalewa-Haus, University of Bayreuth (2009); Hidden Pages: Stolen Bodies, 19th World Wide Video Festival, Veemvloer, Amsterdam (2001); Angola–Brazil, 500 Years, Casa de Angola, Salvador (2000); Retrospectiva: 1967–1997, Instituto Camões, Luanda (1997); Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles (1984); Museu de Angola (1968).
Selected Group Exhibitions:
Artists in Dialogue: António Ole and Aime Mpane, National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C. (2009); Travesía, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderne, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (2008); V Bienal de São Tomé e Príncipe (2008); Africa Remix, Contemporary Art of a Continent, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf; Hayward Gallery, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Johannesburg Art Gallery (2004–2007); Transferts: Africalia, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2003); 50th Venice Biennial (2003); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Haus der Kulturen der Welt/Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center/MoMA, New York (2001–2002); IVe Rencontres de la photographie africaine, Bamako (2000); 3rd Dak'Art, Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Dakar (1998); IIIe Rencontres de la photographie africaine, Bamako (1998); Die Anderen Modernen, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (1997); 6th Havana Biennial (1997); 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997); Container '96: Art Across Oceans, Copenhagen (1996); 1st Johannesburg Biennale (1995); On the Road, Delfina Studio, London (1995); African Pavilion, Expo '92, Sevilla (1992); Art/Images from Southern Africa, Kulturhuset, Stockholm (1989); 2nd Pachipamwe Workshop, Bulawayo (1989); 19th São Paulo Biennial (1987); 2nd Havana Biennial (1986); Salão Universitário, Museu de Angola, Luanda (1967).
Luanda, Video (1994–1995); Sonangol, 10 Anos Mais Forte, 35mm (1987); Long Is the Evening, Quiet Is the Day, Video, (1983); No caminho das estrelas, 16mm (1980); O Ritmo do N'Gola Ritmos (Rhythm of N'Gola Rhythms), 16mm (1978); Os ferroviários (Railway Workers), 16mm (1975); Resistência popular em Benguela, 16mm (1975).
Major Public Collections:
Assembleia da República, Lisbon; Banco Espirito Santo Angola; Museu de Angola, Luanda; Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles; Ethnologisches Museum, Dahlem, Berlin; The Gencor Collection, Johannesburg; Wilfredo Lam Foundation, Havana.
Comenda de Mérito, Republic of Portugal (2007); Prémio Nacional de Artes e Cultura, Luanda, Republic of Angola (2002); "Prémio de Pintura", 2nd Havana Biennial (1986).
António Ole: In the Skin of the City, Luanda 2009; Ulf Vierke (ed.), António Ole: Hidden Pages, Wuppertal 2009.