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Turning weapons into art with Gonçalo Mabunda

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Mabunda uses guns, boots, helmets, bullets, parts of Kalashnikovs and landmines to create sculptures that are on-demand worldwide. The materials used are meant to be in memory of everyone who died during the civil war in Mozambique. Mabunda argues that once these weapons are destroyed, they will not be able to harm anyone anymore. Born in 1975 in Maputo, Goncalo is renowned for making sculptures from weapons.

Gonçalo Mabunda's work was displayed in Bill Clinton’s office when he was the president of the USA. His work has also been exhibited in Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Vitra Design Museum in Germany, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and Hayward Gallery in London.

Throne of the Intellectuals, 2019

Mozambique has a history of conflict despite the fact that they have been peaceful for 28 years. After gaining their independence from the Portuguese, there was a civil war that lasted for 16 years. This resulted in over 7 million weapons being strewn all over the country. Churches have been trying to recover these weapons, and they have been giving out building materials in exchange for the weapons. Mabunda took part in this exercise before deciding to become a memory artist. After his training, he joined the Mozambican Christian Organization and took part in the project that converted weapons into pieces of art.

The Captivating Throne, 2019

Mabunda was trained at Natal Technikon in South Africa and Mozambique as a sculptor of metal and bronze. He sculpts thrones, masks and figures using weapons. He has been an artist since 1997, and he ekes out a living solely from his skill as an artist. Goncalo works at a studio in Nucleo de Art. He started working as a messenger at Nucleo studio before later following Andries Botha to Durban for a couple of months to complete his training.

The Loan Farmer, 2019

When Mabunda first started, he was unsure of how long the peace in the country would last, making him not express himself entirely using his art. His most famous works of art are ‘thrones,’ which are made of guns which represents the power strong men hold. The thrones tell off African leaders that influence their citizens into violence as a way to get more power. The thrones are a function of traditional African art and power. He says that even soldiers need to rest after hours of fighting.

Goncalo has showcased gun butts and bullets and tribal masks in reference to Mozambique’s troubled history. His amazing sculptures show a positive manifestation of the power of art and the creativity of Africans. Mabunda was introduced to weapons by his uncle, who was his role model when he was seven years old. He is keen on ensuring that the coming generations will not have to grow up in a country that is prone to conflict. He does this by confronting his country’s past at a practical level. Mabunda’s art upholds peace since it encourages people to hand in their guns. It also helps to demonstrate that war is pointless. This initiative is being duplicated by other countries that are war-torn or are recuperating from war.

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