At ECES, we're thrilled to continue to collaborate with the talented world-known Mozambican artist Gonçalo Mabunda, whose work resonates deeply with our mission of promoting peace, conflict mitigation and democracy. This collaboration blossomed from a 22-year-long collaboration and friendship between Fabio Bargiacchi, ECES' Founder and Executive Director, and Gonçalo, dating back to 2001 when our founder was working in the EU Delegation to Mozambique, in Maputo.
Mabunda draws inspiration from his country's collective memory, particularly the aftermath of the civil war that ended in 1994 with the Rome peace agreements facilitated by the Sant’Egidio Community. His artistic vision involves the remarkable transformation of deactivated weapons into thought-provoking sculptures, breathing new life and meaning into these objects of destruction.
Gonçalo has exhibited important museums such as the Center Pompidou in Paris, the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, Gangwon International Biennale in South Korea, the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf, the Hayward Gallery in London, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam, Norway Army Museum, Netherlands Army Museum, Sweden Army Museum, and many more.
His work started in the context of a project implemented in 1995, by the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) that has been scouring the country and collecting weapons from individuals and communities after a civil war that lasted almost twenty years. In this project some weapons are destroyed while others are deactivated and given to men and women like Mabunda, to sculpt into art. Some 800,000 weapons have been collected since the CCM launched this project, called Transforming Guns into Hopes. The name is inspired by a Bible verse from the book of Micah: 'They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks'.
Mabunda uses Kalashnikovs, rockets, pistols, and shell casings in order to make anthropomorphic figures out of the deconstructed weapons. By turning weapons into lifelike figures, he literally turns death into life. He makes thrones and masks out of these deactivated weapons used during the Mozambique Civil War. The masks are based on traditional Sub-Saharan African masks, however, the original twist on the art form by creating them out of weapons is unique to him. Representing power, Mabunda's thrones mock how the traditional power rests on weapons. By using weapons, his work carries the message of how further violence can be prevented, and that destroying the weapons of war can be done in an aesthetic and artistic way.
Recognizing the power of Mabunda's art to convey a powerful message, ECES invited him to exhibit his renowned "Transforming Weapons into Arts" collection at the prestigious European Parliament in 2017. This exhibition coincided with the launch of our comprehensive handbook on election conflict prevention, underscoring the significance of peace in electoral processes within the framework of our "Preventing Electoral Violence in the Southern African Development Community" (PEV-SADC) project.
We are excited to announce that Mabunda's extraordinary artwork will be integrated into our future training programs for awareness raising in voter and civic education sessions. By incorporating his captivating sculptures, we aim to enhance the learning experience and foster a deeper understanding of the importance of active citizenship and democratic participation.
By joining forces with Mabunda, ECES continues to embrace the transformative potential of art in promoting positive change and resilience in societies affected by electoral conflicts.