Ernest Mancoba dedicated this lithograph to his sister Edith Ntomtela (1910-2006), Diepkloof, Johannesburg.
One evening in 1990 Ernest Mancoba recalled the Mfingo ancestral history as told by Florence (born Mangwangwa) his mother. Their forebears were fleeing from Shaka’s tyranny in Zululand. Among their clan was an aged and weak granny. At a point she realised that she, being carried by the younger, more able members, was endangering their flight. She insisted and eventually persuaded them to leave her. This gave them a better chance to escape, and they bid her farewell.
The image of the lonely, fragile yet courageous lady that was conjured up in Mancoba’s mind on that evening stuck, and it became an icon. He merged this image with the time-honoured Kota figures of West Africa. The image of Untitled evolved from L’Anc être (1968-70), a major oil on canvas work, now in the Johannesburg Art Gallery. L’Anc être is based on that historic moment of the Mfingo flight.
Elza Miles (1994). Lifeline out of Africa: The Art of Ernest Mancoba, Cape Town & Johannesburg: Human & Rousseau. A similar example is illustrated on page 88, plate number 151.