Mozambican makes art out of weapons
One of the artists arriving in Johannesburg for a trio of major art events next week will be carrying weapons.
But Gonçalo Mabunda is not here to be violent – the weapons have been turned into art. The young Mozambican, who recently sold a sculpture for about R500 000, is one of the artists who will be exhibiting at the FNB Joburg Art Fair.
Art Week Joburg and Joburg Fringe will also kick off this week.
More than a decade ago, the Catholic council of Mozambique launched an initiative to heal the country after its devastating civil war.
Mabunda set to work exploring the pacifist and creative catharses of bullet shells, rogue hand grenades and chunky missile cases.
Any Mozambican of Mabunda’s generation – he was born in 1975 – is unlikely to have escaped the painfully personal experience of war.
This made the project less of a themed exercise in heavy metal than an opportunity to take live munitions from the country’s streets and put them into galleries.
From the outset, Mabunda’s work referenced the layered cultures of his heritage – the heavy baroque carving of Portuguese ships or thrones, the overblown splendour of Catholicism and its attendant iconography.
These were countered with a nod – albeit half-cocked – to Africa’s tribal hierarchies.
The whimsy of his pieces is shadowed by its reality. Mabunda has been a casualty of his own art and retains little vision in his left eye. His assistants have also been injured by the materials they collect.