Gonçalo Mabunda: The Negotiator
Though aesthetically influenced by such European avant-gardists as Georges Braque and Jean Dubuffet, Gonçalo Mabunda’s artistic practice is ultimately devoted to the study of the political history of Mozambique. After a decade-long fight for independence from Portugal and subsequent 16-year-long civil war that ended in 1992, Mabunda’s home country was left with an abundance of defunct machine guns, mines, and other military equipment. Spinning these objects into sculptures that evoke both Western modernism and African tradition, the artist effectively strips them of their killing power. His signature works—metal thrones made of old guns—are meant to evoke and undermine the power of violent political leaders.
In his sculpture, he gives anthropomorphic forms to AK47s, rocket launchers, pistols and other objects of destruction. While the masks could be said to draw on a local history of traditional African art, Mabunda’s work takes on a striking Modernist edge akin to imagery by Braque and Picasso. The deactivated weapons of war carry strong political connotations, yet the beautiful objects he creates also convey a positive reflection on the transformative power of art and the resilience and creativity of African civilian societies.
Mabunda is most well known for his thrones. According to the artist, the thrones function as attributes of power, tribal symbols and traditional pieces of ethnic African art. They are without a doubt an ironic way of commenting on his childhood experience of violence and absurdity and the civil war in Mozambique that isolated his country for a long period.
Mabunda was born in 1975, in Maputo, Mozambique. Recent exhibitions include the Gangwon International Biennale, South Korea, All the World’s Futures at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and Making Africa at the Vitra Museum, Germany. His work has been acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.
Gonçalo Mabunda: The Negotiator runs at Jack Bell Gallery London until 28 August 2020.
April 08, 2021