African designs, £9.99
Kester, Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos and Adelino Serafim Maté, Crocodile, Bird, Gazelle and Snake, decommissioned weapons
Made in Maputo, Mozambique, AD 2005
These animal sculptures were each made by a Mozambican artist: the Crocodile by Cristovao Canhavato (known as Kester), the Bird by Hilario Nhatugueja, the Gazelle by Fiel dos Santos and the Snake by Adelino Serafim Maté. They are products of the Transforming Arms into Tools (TAE) project and are made from decommissioned weapons. The sculptures were displayed in the Ground Force Africa Garden.
Mozambique's civil war lasted from 1976 to 1992 and the country remains one of the poorest in the world. During the war, millions of guns and other weapons poured into the country and most of them remain hidden or buried in the bush. The TAE project, set up by Bishop Dom Dinis Sengulane in 1995 and supported by Christian Aid, is an attempt to eliminate the threat presented by these weapons. Mozambicans are encouraged to hand them over in exchange for items like ploughs, bicycles and sewing machines. In one case a whole village gave up its weapons in exchange for a tractor.
Once the weapons are decommissioned, they are cut up and turned into sculptures by the artists in Maputo. Through their work, the TAE artists seek to challenge the view that Mozambican identity is static. The project has also produced the Tree of Life, on display in the Museum's Great Court, and Kester's Throne of Weapons, currently touring venues across the UK. The works carry messages of transformation and hope for the future of Mozambique.
J. Mack (ed.), Africa: arts and cultures (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)