Throne of Weapons

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Throne of Weapons
Throne of Weapons, British Museum.jpg
On display in the museum
Materialrecycled weapons
SizeHeight: 101 cm
Width: 61 cm
Place Maputo
Present locationRoom 25 in the British Museum

The Throne of Weapons (Portuguese : Trono de Armas) is a 2002 sculpture created by Cristóvão Canhavato out of disused weapons. It is owned by the British Museum [1] and has been called the Museum's most "eloquent object" and has been shown in a wide variety of ways. [2]

Portuguese language Romance language that originated in Portugal

Portuguese is a Western Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe. It also has co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau in China. As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found in Goa, Daman and Diu in India; in Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka; in the Indonesian island of Flores; in the Malacca state of Malaysia; and the ABC islands in the Caribbean where Papiamento is spoken, while Cape Verdean Creole is the most widely spoken Portuguese-based Creole. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation is referred to as "Lusophone" (Lusófono).

British Museum National museum in the Bloomsbury area of London

The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.



The sculpture was created by Cristóvão Estavão Canhavato, who was born in 1966 in Zavala in southern Mozambique. [3] Canhavato works under the name Kester as part of a co-operative called Associação Núcleo de Arte. Kester's artistic education took place at the artist's collective—although he already had a knowledge of engineering construction. The artists collective was supported by Christian Aid and another Christian group led by Bishop Dinis Sengulane as part of an organisation called "Transformacao de Armas em Enxadas" or "Transforming Arms into Tools". [1]

Zavala, Mozambique Place in Inhambane Province, Mozambique

Zavala, also known as Quissico, is a city in Mozambique. It is the capital of the Zavala District.

Mozambique country in Africa

Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique, is a country located in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest. The sovereign state is separated from the Comoros, Mayotte and Madagascar by the Mozambique Channel to the east. The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo.

Christian Aid organization

Christian Aid is the official relief and development agency of 41 Protestant and Orthodox churches in the UK and Ireland, and works to support sustainable development, stop poverty, support civil society and provide disaster relief in South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia including the Middle East.

The throne has been signed by the artist, but as the curators have noted, the throne has also been "signed" by termites who have traditionally damaged African wooden sculptures. [2] Kester, the artist, points out the smiling faces that he has included in his work even though his relatives were injured by weapons like these. At the top of the right hand rifle butt is a human face, but the face was only "found" by the artist. The holes and marks are the remains of where a strap had been attached when it was carried by its owner. The symbol Kester created was the gothic shape at the back which is intended to symbolise a church. [2]

A gunstock or often simply stock, the back portion of which also known as a shoulder stock, a buttstock or simply a butt, is a part of a long gun that provides structural support, to which the barrelled action and firing mechanism are attached. The stock also provides a means for the shooter to firmly brace the gun and easily aim with stability by being held against the user's shoulder when shooting the gun, and helps to counter muzzle rise by transmitting recoil straight into the shooter's body.

Detail of the throne's seat Throne of Weapons, British Museum 2.jpg
Detail of the throne's seat

The "Transforming Arms into Tools" organisation supplied the decommissioned weapons to Kester and his group for this and many other related pieces of sculpture. [4] The guns, mostly AK-47 assault rifles, were manufactured in Portugal, Eastern Europe and North Korea. The H&K G3 rifles used to form the backrest were designed in Germany and manufactured in Portugal. [5] They were widely used throughout West Africa. The Russian contribution of the iconic AK-47 rifle is important to the design—an AK-47, a hoe, and a book still feature on Mozambique's flag. [6]

AK-47 1940s assault rifle of Soviet origin

The AK-47, officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova, is a gas-operated, 7.62×39mm assault rifle, developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is the originating firearm of the Kalashnikov rifle family.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

North Korea Sovereign state in East Asia

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang the capital and the largest city in the country. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok and Tumen rivers and to the south it is bordered by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands.

On the front of the chair is a North Korean manufactured AKM rifle and a single PPSh-43 submachine gun, and the weapons that make up the seat were made in Poland and Czechoslovakia. [5]

The AKM is a 7.62×39mm assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is a common modernized variant of the AK-47 rifle developed in the 1940s.

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

The weapons in Mozambique arise from a civil war that was funded by South Africa and Rhodesia and involved emigrants from their apartheid regimes. [7] One million people were killed and the war only ended when the Soviet Union collapsed and the funding ended. [2] Kofi Annan said when this chair was being discussed, "We don't manufacture weapons, we sometimes don't even have money to buy them. How do we get these weapons to kill each other?" [5]

Kofi Annan 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations

Kofi Atta Annan was a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.


The throne was purchased by the British Museum in 2002. [1] The sculpture had been brought to England by Christian Aid as part of an exhibition called "Swords into Ploughshares. Transforming Arms into Art". In 2005 the museum went on to commission another art work from the same group of artists in Maputo. The resulting piece was called " Tree of Life " and it was exhibited in the museum's main area from February 2005. [7]


The Throne of Begoro in Ghana in the 1880s Throne and Drums of the Begoro King impa-abmpix-28131.jpeg
The Throne of Begoro in Ghana in the 1880s

The Associação Núcleo de Arte in Maputo has been an artists' collective since the 1930s and despite the end of empire and a civil war it is still supporting artists as it did to Maputo, the painter Malangatana Ngwenya in the 1950s. [3]

The symbolism of recycling decommissioned weapons from around the world is self-evident. However, there is an added meaning because chairs can be a symbol of authority in Africa. [7] A nineteenth century example of a chief's chair from Ghana is shown for comparison.

The Throne of Weapons was sent on tour by the British Museum and has been exhibited in schools, shopping centres, museums, cathedrals, community spaces and a prison around the United Kingdom. It has travelled internationally but also toured Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. It has been called the Museum's most "eloquent object" and may have been shown in a wider variety of ways than any other artifact. [2]

The sculpture was chosen to be featured in A History of the World in 100 Objects , a series of radio programmes that started in 2010 as a collaboration between the BBC and the British Museum. [2]

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Maputo City and Province in Mozambique

Maputo, officially named Lourenço Marques until 1976, is the capital and most populous city of Mozambique. Located near the southern end of the country, it is positioned within 120 km of the Eswatini and South Africa borders. The city has a population of 1,101,170 distributed over a land area of 347 km2. The Maputo metropolitan area includes the neighbouring city of Matola, and has a total population of 2,717,437. Maputo is a port city, with an economy centered on commerce. It is also noted for its vibrant cultural scene and distinctive, eclectic architecture.

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Dinis Salomão Sengulane is a Mozambican Anglican priest. He was the Anglican Bishop of Lebombo, Maputo, Mozambique, from 1976 to 2014. He had an important role in the end of the Mozambican Civil War in 1992 and helped with the surrender of 600,000 weapons that were converted into art. He was amongst the longest serving Anglican bishops.

<i>Tree of Life</i> (Kester)

The Tree of Life is a sculpture created by four artists in Mozambique. It was commissioned and then installed in the British Museum in 2005. It was built from the surrender of 600,000 weapons that were converted into art following an initiative started by Bishop Dinis Sengulane.

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Alberto Mabungulane Chissano was a Mozambican sculptor best known for his work using indigenous woods, and sculptures in rock, stone and iron. He is considered to be one of Mozambique's most important and influential artists, together with the painter Malangatana Ngwenya.

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Bertina Lopes was a Mozambican painter and sculptor. Lopes work displays a deep African sensibility with saturated colors and bold compositions of mask-like figures and geometric forms. She "highlighted the social criticism and nationalistic fervour that influenced other Mozambican artists of her time".


  1. 1 2 3 Spring, Chris; et al. "Farewell to Arms". TES. Times Educational Supplement. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Throne of Weapons". A History of the World in 100 Objects. BBC. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  3. 1 2 "artists' collective Nucleo de Arte". Nucleo de Arte. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  4. "Associação Núcleo de Arte". Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 MacGregor, Neil. "Episode 98 - Throne of Weapons - transcript". A History of the World in 100 Objects. BBC. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  6. "Mozambique: Parliament Keeps Gun In National Flag". The New York Times. 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  7. 1 2 3 "Throne of Weapons". British Museum. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
Preceded by
97: In the dull village
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Object 98
Succeeded by
99: Credit Card