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
Createdc.2002
Place Maputo
Present locationRoom 25 in the British Museum
Registration2002.Af1.1

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]

Contents

Description

The Throne of Weapons was created by Cristóvão Estevão Canhavato, [3] who was born in 1966 in Zavala in southern Mozambique. [4] 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 Transformação de Armas em Enxadas or "Transforming Arms into Tools". [1]

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]

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. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7]

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. [6]

The weapons in Mozambique arise from a civil war that was funded by South Africa and Rhodesia and involved emigrants from their apartheid regimes. [8] 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?" [6]

Provenance

The throne was purchased by the British Museum in 2002, brokered by Christian Aid's Julia Fairrie. [1] The sculpture had been brought to England by Christian Aid as part of an exhibition called "Swords into Ploughshares. Transforming Arms into Art" curated by Julia Fairrie. 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. [8]

Importance

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. [4]

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. [8] 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]

Related Research Articles

AK-47 1949 Soviet 7.62×39mm assault rifle

The AK-47, officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikov, is a gas-operated assault rifle that is chambered for the 7.62×39mm cartridge. Developed in the Soviet Union by Russian small-arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov, it is the originating firearm of the Kalashnikov family of rifles. After more than seven decades, the AK-47 model and its variants remain the most popular and widely used rifles in the world.

Mikhail Kalashnikov Soviet and Russian small arms designer

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Maputo Capital and chief port of Mozambique

Maputo, formerly named Lourenço Marques until 1976, is the capital and most populous city of Mozambique. The city is named after chief Maputsu I of the Tembe clan, a subgroup of the Tsonga people. 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 1,088,449 distributed over a land area of 347.69 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.

AK-74 Assault rifle

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SKS Autoloading rifle

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The RPK is a Soviet 7.62×39mm light machine gun, developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the early 1960s, in parallel with the AKM assault rifle. It was created to standardize the small arms inventory of the Soviet Army, where it replaced the 7.62×39mm RPD light machine gun. The RPK continues to be used by the armed forces of countries of the former Soviet Union and certain African and Asian nations. The RPK is also manufactured in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.

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

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AKM Family of the Modernized version of AK-47 Assault rifle

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Kalashnikov rifle Russian automatic rifle family

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Assault rifle Military rifle type

An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles were first put into mass production and accepted into widespread service during World War II. The first assault rifle to see major usage was the German StG 44, a development of the earlier Mkb 42. While immediately after World War II, NATO countries were equipped with battle rifles, the development of the M16 rifle during the Vietnam War prompted the adoption of assault rifles by the rest of NATO. By the end of the 20th century, assault rifles had become the standard weapon in most of the world's armies, replacing full-powered rifles and sub-machine guns in most roles. Some of the most successful assault rifles include the AK-47, M16, IMI Galil and Heckler & Koch G36.

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<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.

Alberto Chissano

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.

Naomi Siegmann American artist

Naomi Siegmann was an American artist who has developed her career in Mexico, and noted for the depiction of everyday objects outside their normal contexts. She began her career after she moved to Mexico with her family, learning to carve wood. She worked in this medium for about twenty years, before moving onto other materials, including recycled ones, in part due to her concerns for the environment. During her career, she had solo exhibits in Mexico and the United States, with participation in collective exhibits in these countries and Europe. She has been commissioned to create monumental works in Mexico and the United States. Her work has been recognized through a membership in the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana.

Gonçalo Mabunda

Gonçalo Mabunda was born on January 1, 1975 in Maputo, Mozambique. He is an artist and anti-war activist. Mabunda 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, 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, Amsterdam, Norway Army Museum, Netherlands Army Museum, Sweden Army Museum and many more.

Bertina Lopes was a Mozambican-born, Italian painter and sculptor. Lopes' work displays a deep African sensibility with saturated colours and bold compositions of mask-like figures and geometric forms. She has been acknowledged for highlighting 'the social criticism and nationalistic fervour that influenced other Mozambican artists of her time'.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Spring, Chris; et al. "Farewell to Arms". TES. Times Educational Supplement. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. 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. Bemong, N; Truwant, M; Vermeulen, P (2008). Re-Thinking Europe: Literature and (Trans) National Identity. Rodopi. p. 130. ISBN   978-9042023529 via Google Books.
  4. 1 2 "artists' collective Núcleo de Arte". Núcleo de Arte. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  5. "Associação Núcleo de Arte". africaserver.nl. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 MacGregor, Neil. "Episode 98 - Throne of Weapons - transcript". A History of the World in 100 Objects. BBC. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  7. "Mozambique: Parliament Keeps Gun In National Flag". The New York Times. 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  8. 1 2 3 "Throne of Weapons". British Museum. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
Preceded by A History of the World in 100 Objects
Object 98
Succeeded by