Bullet Beauty

A strange djembé drummer is sitting in the corner of the B&B lounge in the Belgian town of Antwerp. It’s a black steel figurine with a violent past, but a new green life, created by a just as unusual artist by the name of Goncalo Mabunda from Mozambigue.

Two decades ago a vile civil war was raging in that country. But in 1992, with a lot of urging by the international community, among others the Vatican, peace was signed. Warriors from all sides could surrender their small arms to the new government, getting farmer’s tools in return.
The authorities destroyed the weaponry, but that left them with tons of scrap. Again with the help of the Vatican, art came to the rescue. Under a subsidized Arms into Art project Mozambican artists started welding sculptures of all sizes from the demolished AK47’s and mortar grenades.

Throne of weapons

Even the British Museum exhibited a piece by Mathe Serafin and Hilario Nhatugueja, called “The Tree of Life”. The project petered out. But some creative minds have reached new artistic heights in this unparalleled form of C2C recycling. When invited to build a big globe from arms scrap for the Bill Clinton Foundation, Goncalo Mabunda became the most famous of them all. Mabunda also built a “Throne of Weapons,” presented to the Pope John Paul II.
To his friend Olga Dengo, now painting and living in Antwerp, Mabunda donated two smaller figurines. What horrors did these pistol handles and triggers see and cause in earlier life? Their dark secrets will remain unanswered. But to those who care about them, their new shapes constitute a unique green peace message from the African world of modern arts. Photo: © Michel Robles