Goncalo Mabunda /   Gonçalo Mabunda

Mozambique 1975


Goncalo Mabunda
Gonçalo Mabunda
January 10, 2017
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

The matter of collective memory and trauma in the art of Goncalo Mabunda is undermined to the core. The decision to produce almost all of his artworks out of used arms suggests how profound his position is. By focusing on his own personal war experience the artist is dealing not only with the duality of collective and personal, rather he is taking the whole narrative further by undermining the horridness of atrocities and the use of arms in general. Furthermore, Mabunda is critically articulating heritage and race in regards to the omnipresent colonialism and rather fragmented political climate in Africa.

From gonçalo mabunda's home country the news and design were sent to paris and london
Goncalo Mabunda – Loves with loneliness throne, 2013 – image via jackbellgallery.com

Becoming The Artist Through Hard Times

Goncalo Mabunda was born in 1975, in Maputo, Mozambique. Practically from his birth, he was exposed to violence due to the ongoing civil war which started in 1977 and lasted till 1992. After the peace was declared, Mabunda took part in the social reconstruction of his country by working on a project whose mission was to exchange weapons for farming tools. Soon afterward, he became gallery manager at the Núcleo de Arte, an art collective made up of a group of seven young sculptors and the epicenter of art in Maputo. Several years later, he participated in a three months course in metal and bronze sculpture at the Natal Technikon in South Africa. After the return, he joined the project Arms into Art, a project run by a Mozambican Christian organization that transforms weapons into art pieces and since 1997 started working fully as an artist.[1]

The politically charged works are rather suggestive, though beautiful

The works of Gonçalo are higly respected and recognized at his home and in Paris
Goncalo Mabunda – Untitled, 2013 – image via 1-54.com

The Choice of Material

For a long period of time, the arms were a part of Mabunda’s everyday life so the decision to use it as a material for creating art appeared to be logical. He started producing sculptures out of deactivated arms which were stocked and hidden during the long civil war which divided Mozambique. His agenda was based on denouncing the absurdity of war and at the same time dissecting the western myths about primitive savages in the light of the terrible effects of colonization of African continent. Mabunda sought out that the best tool for articulating the complexity of the civil war and violence, in general, is to use old and abandoned Kalashnikovs, rockets, guns and bullets and transform it in gracious, yet terrifying relics.

Undermining the severity of war trauma

Gonçalo Mabunda is known for his peculiar thrones and weird masks made out of weapons
Goncalo Mabunda – New work, 2012, Installation view – image via jackbellgallery.com

About The Thrones and Masks

The African ethnic tradition largely rests on several models of representation, yet the figure of the tribe chief is perhaps the most iconic. Therefore, Mabunda decided to process that embodiment of the power and to critically point out the present African governments who often manipulate tragically armed violence to reinforce their power. The masks, on the other hand, undermine the notion of what African art is and are somehow reminiscent of avant-garde art, especially
Cubism and Futurism. They seem as if they are here to warn us and protect us from the evil spirits and this ambiguity perfectly suggests Mabunda’s eagerness to express both the creativity of his fellow people and the immense horror that they have been exposed due to the inside as well as outside politics.

Almost mechanised tribal idols

Goncalo Mabunda – Untitled (Mask), 2011 – image via jackbellgallery.com (Left) / Goncalo Mabunda – Untitled (Mask), 2015 – image via Untitled (Mask), 2011 – image via jackbellgallery.com (Right)

The Interest And Recognition

The increasing interest in work of Goncalo Mabunda has been shown over the years so he exhibited in a large number of museums around the world from Centre Pompidou, over Brooklyn Museum in New York to the Vatican Museum. The artist was selected to represent Mozambique at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2015. The same year one of his works was almost demolished while trying to pass the US customs due to collectors commission. [2] Despite having all the documents, the custom’s representatives consider it as a proper weapon and were not eager to pass it although several other artworks already were transferred to their owners. Ironically, this particular case perfectly reflects the thin line between art and life in regards to the Mabunda’s articulation of what weapon is and how the very thought or presence of it delivers unease and stands like some threat.

Goncalo Mabunda lives and works in Maputo, Mozambique.


  1. Hume, T. (2012): Artist creates objects of beauty from instruments of death, CNN [January 09 2017]
  2. Voon, C. (2015): US Customs Officials Confiscate Sculpture Made of Weapons, Hyperallergic [January 09 2017]

Featured image: Portrait of Goncalo Mabunda in front of his artwork – image courtesy of Create Hub Gallery
All other images for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group 
2016Materias TransitóriosSociedade Nacional de Belas Artes Lisboa, PortugalGroup
2016Making Africa A continentGuggenheim bilbao, Bilbao-SpainGroup
2015Saudades do tempo da cartaFundaçao Fernando Leite Couto, Maputo MoçambiqueSolo
2015Game of thrones Galerie du Passage, ParisSolo
2015Lumières d'AfriquesThéâtre National de Chaillot, Paris, FranceGroup
2015African conteporaneo art 1:54 Art fair, London - UKGroup
2015Studio LumiereJack Bell Gallery, London, UKGroup
2015All The World’s FuturesBienale de Venezia, Venice, ItalyGroup
2015Making AfricaVitra Desing Museum, GermanyGroup
2015Telas e MetaisGaleria Tilandia, Maputo - MozambiqueGroup
2014LamegoTeatro Ribeiro conceiçaoSolo
2014Untitled34 Fineart Cape town, South AfricaGroup
2014Batik d’AfriqueEthan Cohen, New YorkGroup
2014UntitledLondon Art Fair,LondonGroup
2014UntitledJoburg Art Fair, Johannesburg-South AfricaGroup
2014UntitledGaleria 111, Lisboa-PortugalGroup
2013Goncalo MabundaCentro de Artes Nadir Afonso,Boticas - PortugalSolo
2013Goncalo MabundaJack Bell Gallery,London, UKSolo
2013Untitled Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, UKGroup
2013UntitledArt Warning the world Paris - FranceGroup
2013Untitled London Art fair LondonGroup
2012Goncalo MabundaBozart Gallery,Lisbon, PortugalSolo
2012Goncalo MabundaJack Bell Gallery, London, UKSolo
2012O Circulo Kulunguana Gallery, Maputo-MozambiqueGroup
2012Made in ÁfricaSandton Art Gallery, Johannesburg – South ÁfricaGroup
2012UntitledMarrakech Art Fair Marrakech – MarrocosGroup
2011UntitledJohannesburg Art Fair Johannesburg – South ÁfricaGroup
2011UntitledIntoto Gallery Johannesburg – South ÁfricaGroup
20113DCCFM, Maputo-MozambiqueGroup
2011Karl Marx dezoito trinta e quatroNúcleo de arte,Maputo - MosambiqueGroup
2010UntitledJohannesburg Art Fair Johannesburg – South ÁfricaGroup
2010Karl Marx dezoito trinta e quatroAtelier 1834,Maputo - MosambiqueGroup
2010UntitledKulunguana Gallery Maputo – MoçambiqueGroup
2010 African Stories Casablanca, MarrocoGroup
2010Materias ordinários para vidas ExtraordináriasCCFM, Maputo - MosambiqueGroup
2010World festival of Black arts and CulturesBiscuiterie G allery, Dakar - SenegalGroup
2010MADMuseum The global Africa Project New YorkGroup
2010UntitledArt Fair Johannesburg South africaGroup
2010Movart Bienal Nacional Museum,Maputo - Moçambique Group
2010Ocupações TemporáriasClube Ferroviario, Maputo - MosambiqueGroup
2009Second LifeMAD Museum, New YorkGroup
2009UntitledSpier old wine cellar Gallery,Stellenbosch South AfricaGroup
2009UntitledAfronova Johannesburg South AfricaGroup
2009UntitledGalery la Nuvola, Rome ItalyGroup
2008Goncalo MabundaCentro cultural Franco Moçambicano, MozambiqueSolo
2008Goncalo MabundaAfronova Gallery, Johannesburg, South AfricaSolo
2008UntitledDesign Art Fair Miami, BaselGroup
2008UntitledLondon Design Festival, LondonGroup
2008UntitledPirimeter editions,Paris - FranceGroup
2008Afric’ArtDuam Museum (Quay Branly) Paris- FranceGroup
2008UntitledArtfair Basel, Basel - SwitzerlandGroup
2007Anual MusartNational Museum, Maputo, MozambiqueGroup
2007Brother in ArmsNúcleo de Arte, Maputo – MozambiqueGroup
2007Africa remixJohannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg – South AfricaGroup
2007UntitledMuseum Het Domein, NetherlandsGroup
2006Africa remixMori museum, Tokyo, - JapanGroup
2006Bang bangMuseum of Saint Etienne, Saint Etienne – FranceGroup
2005Goncalo MabundaGallery La Nuvola, Rome, ItalySolo
2005Goncalo Mabunda23 Gallery, Amsterdam, NetherlandsSolo
2005AfricaremixGeorges Pompidou Center, Paris – FranceGroup
2004Nostra aetateDionysia Center, Roma – ItalyGroup
2002UntitledPlaytime, Johannesburg – South AfricaGroup
2001UntitledInternational Conference for destruction of arms, New YorkGroup
2000Arm into ArtToronto – Ontario - CanadaGroup