Throne of weapons
Made by Kester, Maputo, Mozambique, 2001
The throne was made by the Mozambican artist Cristovao Canhavato (Kester) from decommissioned weapons collected since the end of the civil war in 1992.
Since the overthrow of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, Mozambique offered both inspiration and a safe haven for activists opposing apartheid in South Africa and white minority Rhodesia. The civil war in Mozambique was fuelled by those regimes in their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to destabilize the country.
The throne is a product of the TAE project - Transformaçaõ de Armas em Enxadas (Transforming Arms into Tools) - whereby weapons previously used by combatants on both sides are voluntarily exchanged for agricultural, domestic and construction tools. The project was established in 1995 in Maputo by Bishop Dinis Sengulane of the Christian Council of Mozambique with the support of Christian Aid.
The components of the throne to some extent reflect the international arms trade, though guns from all over the world, including the Western powers, are collected by the TAE team. The principal feature is the Russian AK47 rifle but there are also sections from Eastern European, Portuguese and North Korean guns. The throne has an added significance in Africa where carved stools and chairs are symbols of power and prestige. Examples from Ghana, the Congo and Zanzibar, for example, may be seen in the African collections of the British Museum.
Kester was born on 15 July 1966 in Zavala, Mozambique. He trained in technical engineering but had no formal art education until attending the Núcleo de Arte in Maputo in 1998. All the artists involved with TAE, some of whom were child soldiers, have studied here. For them the process of constructing the sculptures is at once painful and cathartic. The results are vivid reminders of 16 years of devastating externally fuelled civil war and powerful symbols of hope for the future. In the words of TAE's patron Graça Machel, the aim is 'to take away instruments of death from the hands of young people and to give them an opportunity to develop a productive life'.
The British Museum acquired the Throne of Weapons in 2002 from an exhibition organised by Christian Aid at the Oxo Tower in London (Swords into Ploughshares. Transforming Arms into Art). Most recently it has collaborated with Christian Aid to commission the artists of the Associação Núcleo de Arte to create a Tree of Life through TAE. This was installed in the Museum in February 2005. At the same time the Throne of Weapons began a nationwide tour of the United Kingdom.