Mozambican artist on the story behind his iconic throne sculpture with guns and bullets

For anyone, the sculpture would pass as an iconic throne that will sit beautifully in any palace or an imposing edifice to meet its standard. But, the Throne of the Present Owner is more than that. It rather embodies the losses, pain and resilience of the people of Mozambique to look into the future and say never again to war. 

The throne represents the childhood memories of Mozambique artist Goncalo Mabunda, of the destruction caused by the guns and bullets in the country’s civil war which lasted over 15 years. 

Mabunda is noted for constructing thrones, but, what makes the Throne of the Present Owner different is that it was built from pistols, rocket launchers and AK47s, according to Jack and Bell gallery. They are arms handed over to him after the Christian Council had collected arms used in the Mozambique civil war.

The Mozambique civil war commenced barely two years after the country had gained independence from Portugal. It is believed that Mozambique was a pun caught in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States who were supplying feuding factions with ammunition, according to Black Past. The war claimed one million lives in a country whose population was 14 million at the time. 

Mabunda’s art is meant to send a strong political message to the governments that the fledgling peace must be protected and made as beautiful as the throne. It also represents the change art could inspire as well as the tenacity and creativity of the African art space. 

The throne also stands for the power in weaponry, tribal representations of the Mozambique people, and the rarity of African art.

These themes have a strong influence on the worldview of Mabunda whose childhood was replete with blood and pain caused by a war fought without a basis. He is always in touch with the memories of where Mozambique is from and where they are heading to. 

As much as the sentiments that drove the country into civil strife hold sway in its politics today, he seeks to remind them with the throne as a stark reminder to use dialogue instead of arms to resolve their differences. 

Art curators have argued that Mabunda’s work is steeped in traditional art, when it is looked at from the modern perspective, it shares a connection with the works of Braque and Picasso.

When the Throne of the Present Owner is looked at symbolically, the guns and bullets which are the main construct of the throne are supposed to evoke fear, but they are rather in a sphere that preaches change and hope. 

Mabunda was born in Maputo, Mozambique in 1975. Over the years, his works have shot him into international prominence, according to Rdn Arts.

His work has made it to many international exhibitions, chief among them being the first Mozambican artist at the Venice Biennale. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton is a great fan of Mabunda’s works and is known to have purchased some of his art. 

The international media considers his work as representing African identity and culture. He is also known for using his work to promote development and uplift local communities.

Click here for a photo of the Throne of the Present Owner.

Stephen Nartey

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