Born in Maputo, Mozambique in 1975, Gonçalo Mabunda is an artist we love!
The artist, engaged for years in fierce criticism of the absurdity of the war, has an original creative method. He uses weapons and war objects to compose works of art that challenge the same concept of war.
His sculptures are born from objects of destruction but acquire an aesthetic of incredible impact. In fact, the reference to Braque and Picasso’s work is evident. The result is surprising, to put it mildly: Gonçalo Mabunda’s sculptures not only bring a transformative message, but they do it with a strong aesthetic that tells the story of African art!
Gonçalo Mabunda’s career and education
Mabunda uses rockets, pistols and other war objects to create wonderful sculptures that tell of African identity. This creative approach, which distinguishes him in the contemporary art scene, began in 1995. It is in this year that the Christian Council of Mozambique begins to collect the weapons of the war that caused suffering in Mozambique for over twenty years.
In the long process of redeveloping the territory, some weapons were destroyed. Many others instead were entrusted to artists such as Mabunda, who saw in those a possibility. These objects have in fact become the raw material for a positive and optimistic art. An art whose purpose is to highlight the African identity, without erasing the tragic events of modern history. However, using them as the foundation for a new chapter of hope and beauty.
Mabunda in exhibitions and media
Mabunda’s sculptures have gained international success. He was the first Mozambican artist at the Venice Biennale. His works are part of important exhibitions, which include the Gangwon International Biennale, South Korea, and ‘Making Africa’ at the Vitra Museum, Germany. Among others, Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Hayward Gallery, London, Pompidou, Paris, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, and the Johannesburg Art Gallery also hosted the artist’s works.
Even the press and the media have been following the evolution of this brilliant sculptor for years. He was in some of the major newspapers, including the French newspaper Le Monde, HuffingtonPost. On the other hand, the CNN Inside Africa program focused particularly on its works as a symbol of African identity and culture in 2015.
Among the artist’s main supporters, there is also ex-president Bill Clinton who commissioned sculptures for the Clinton Global Initiative from Mabunda.
Today, among many other things, the artist is a partner of African Artists for Development. The organization aims to promote the development of local communities through contemporary artistic projects.
Gonçalo Mabunda’s thrones and masks
In his production, the masks and the thrones, in particular, have a prominent role. They are both ways to represent the traits of African culture fully. Through them, it’s possible to reproduce the ethnic art and depict African traditions. However, above all, his sculptures carry a strong political message.
The thrones, in particular, are symbols of power. They serve to comment with strong imagery, the military regimes, and their misuse of that power. In this, we can see a cause of Mozambique’s experience. The country stayed isolated for an extended period because of the civil war.
Through the masks and the thrones, the artist strongly reaffirms a compelling message. For him, it is essential to affirm that the cultural identity of his land is not undermined by the oppression and violence it has suffered for years.
Art we love: identity, beauty, and hope in Mabunda’s sculptures
The distinctive trait of this artist is transforming death into life and violence into beauty. In the artist’s works, we see the influence of some European avant-garde currents. However, by evoking Western modernism, Mubunda depicts African symbols and identity. His is an art of transformation that carries a vital message.
“My pieces prove that objects of violence can be transformed into something positive and something beautiful. Not only that, but – to me – the reworked weapons represent the resiliency and creativity of African civilian societies.“Gonçalo Mabunda
The aesthetics of his works is decisive, captivating at first glance. The message in his works, however, makes his production even more powerful. It’s possible to prevent violence and turn weapons of war into works of art.
Visit artist’s gallery on RDN Arts: Gonçalo Mabunda