Francois Thango was born in Brazzaville, French Congo, the son of Camerounian and Cabindan parents. He studied under Pierre Lods at the Poto Poto (literally Mangove swamp) School of Art, Brazzaville. In 1958 Lods sent Thango to Brussels to represent the Poto Poto School at the World Trade Fair. The following year he crossed the Congo river to live in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), Congo and joined the artistic community there under the patronage of Maurice Alhadeff. Alhadeff’s support allowed Thango to produce his best work; he also exhibited Thango’s work in New York in 1961 and in Europe through the 1960s.
Thango received a UNICEF prize in Paris and his two-dimensional style with figures outlined in black is instantly recognisable. It is considered to be an important bridge between traditional African artwork and modernism and he is probably Congo’s and one of Central Africa’s best-known artists. Thango returned to Brazzaville in 1975. He is particularly well regarded in French-speaking countries; in 1991/2 an exhibition of his work, entitled Congo, Thango de Brazza in Kin was held at the Musee National des Arts d’Africa et d’Oceanic in Paris; major mixed shows where his work has been exhibited include The Birth of Contemporary Painting in Central Africa at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium 1992, African Art Now in Tokyo 1993 and the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco’s 2005 exhibition Arts of Africa.