Artist Spotlight: Goncalo Mabunda


Mozambican artist Goncalo Mabunda is a sculptor of hope, shaping the residue of a painful collective past into monuments of a better future. He uses old, discarded weapons, objects that litter his once war ridden country in an abundance, to build his sculptures – forming them into masks, figurines and thrones. The Tiroche DeLeon Collection owns two unique works by Mabunda; a set of figurines and, since recently, a monumental throne.

We are pleased to dedicate this spotlight to Goncalo Mabunda.  

Born in 1975 in Mozambique, Mabunda grew up into the reality of the civil war which broke out in 1977. The fighting ended in 1992, but it left the country with an incomprehensible amount of victims and traumatized the population for decades to follow. The war left material remnants too: an estimated 7 million weapons were stashed throughout the country. These physical leftovers are Mabunda’s starting point for addressing the painful collective memory of his nation.  

The form of his work references both art history and his heritage – shaped like traditional African masks and figures and styled with Braque’s cubism, the height of Western modernism.The material itself, weapons taken from the battlefield and brought into the gallery space, reference an actual, corporal history - of people, of war, and of loss, rusted by time and sweat. The artworks themselves are historical, thrones and masks, objects that are the fossils of this day and age, what we turn to when we wish to learn of the political climate in far off places and former times. On the final level, the new artistic meaning of the once lethal machines renders their former function impotent. In this way, Mabunda eliminates the weapons’ ability to kill, removes them from the course of destruction, and creates space for a better future, one purified from machines of death but rather decorated by objects of beauty. 

"O Throno Em Dois Tempos" (2015), one of Mabunda's signature thrones which was recently acquired by the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, is a special piece designed like the thrones of African rulers that symbolized power and prestige. The throne's skeleton of weapons is exposed to the viewer, emphasizing the price of this power and honor: sacrificing the African people. The work both pays tribute to the traditions of his heritage and undermines them, exposing the mechanism that divided the country. In a broader sense, the throne also references thrones used by kings and rulers in Western societies, rulers who colonized Africa and degraded African art, exposing their identical method of preserving their superior status – with weapons of war.