GonÃ§alo Mabunda was born in Maputo, Mozambique in 1975. Mabunda began working at the Mozambican artists’ collective, NÃºcleo de Arte, as a gallery assistant, in 1992 and began painting. He has worked alongside other African artists, such as Andries Botha. Mabunda is still a member of the NÃºcleo de Arte collective to this day.
Mabunda’s art is a call for political and social change, on a scale that matches the transformation of weapons into pieces of art.
Civil war broke out in Mozambique in 1977. This civil and social context has had a deep and lasting impact on Mabunda, both artistically and personally. As Mabunda’s artistic career began, the war was ending. When the Rome General Peace Accords were being negotiated, with assistance from a Catholic organisation, Sant’Egidio, the issue arose of how to decommission the weapons, mines, and shells that were left over from the war. It was estimated that some 7 million guns had been hidden in the country in the course of the war – disarmament was a massive task.
Sant-Egidio suggested that they are donated to artists, and NÃºcleo de Arte was chosen. Mabunda remembers the weapons arriving. “They came and just piled up the guns, you know? So many guns just piled up outside the house.“ Indeed, this highly unusual raw material was to become very important to him artistically.
Mabunda took a course in metalworking at the Technikon of Natal, in order to be able to do justice to his artistic vision. His focus switched from painting, and the guns became his main raw material. For him, the material already carried a powerful message, even before it was transformed into art. Through his work, Mabunda had turned thousands of guns and bullets into sculptures and trophies. These transformative works have propelled him onto the international art scene and made him one of Africa’s most renowned artists.
Mabunda’s work featured in the exhibition, Growbox Art Project is made from decommissioned artillery. He used real, unfired bullets which are from a large collection of weapons that were used or bought during the Mozambican Civil War. Approximately, 7 million guns were recovered during the post-war disarmament. Now, Mabunda is concerned about the war against nature and people dying from malnutrition.