Sonja Ferlov Mancoba started making sculptures in 1935. Painting then became a secondary occupation. She created her sculptures in clay and plaster. Understated shapes with flowing lines dominate her oeuvre. A recurring motif in the work of Ferlov Mancoba is the mask. Early in her childhood she came into contact with this through the large collection of figures and masks from Africa of a friend of the family. This can be seen, for example, in the work Mask (Table Mask/Birth of the Mask) (1965-75). The plaster version of this work literally served as such in her studio.
In 1936, Ferlov Mancoba left for Paris. Here she played a crucial role in establishing contact between the French avant-garde and like-minded Danish artists. After the Second World War she joined the artists’ group Høst. Via Høst she became involved with Cobra. Ferlov Mancoba’s participation in the Cobra movement remained relatively limited, although her work was featured in the Cobra magazine and a booklet was devoted to her in the series Bibliothèque de Cobra. In 1952, she and her husband Ernest Mancoba returned to Paris for good.
In contrast to the exuberance and vitality with which Cobra is associated, Ferlov Mancoba sometimes worked on the same sculpture for years. She was intensely focused on the process rather than the end result. She considered her sculptures to be living creatures that she sent out into the world as messengers, protectors or warriors fighting against selfishness and inhumanity. For Ferlov Mancoba, art showed the way forward, towards a healthier and more humane society. She believed in the social importance of art. This conviction was not only formed by her experiences during the Second World War. Her experiences as a woman also contributed to this.