Throne of Weapons

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The tropical coastal plain beneath one of the world’s poorest countries is soiled with blood that eventually seeps into the Indian Ocean. About 1 million people died here, defending their home and rights. Rifles and bullets played a huge part in this destruction, but human spirit was not lost, “To take away instruments of death from the hands of young people and to give them an opportunity to develop a productive life” (1), is the present Mozambique enterprise, in Southern Africa. Optimism is a relatively new future after 16 years of civil war that left behind an estimated 70 million guns. It all began in 1505, when Mozambique was a Portuguese Colony and remained that way for 470 years. Then the people of Mozambique acquired independence in 1975 and within a decade, the National Government of Mozambique was threatened. Anti-government guerrillas opposed the new government and civil war broke out. In 1995, Mozambique became a member of the British Commonwealth and thankfully the war ended.

Emerging from tragedy was an organization that facilitates exchange of weapons previously used by combatants for household, farming and construction tools; it is known as the Transformaçaõ de Armas em Enxadas (Transforming Arms into Tools). Promoting utopia, this organization commissioned an artist to contrive a symbol of human strength and monument to the victims of the Mozambique Civil War. Artist Cristovao Canhavato received this honor and was supplied with a variety of decommissioned weapons for a sculpture, “I wasn’t affected directly by the Civil War, but I have two relatives who lost their legs…” (2). Born in 1966 in Zavala, Mozambique, Canhavato was trained in technical engineering construction, but eventually changed course. He attended the Núcleo de Arte in Maputo, a multi-arts and culture organization and began creating art under the name Kester.

Throne of Weapons, by Kester, 2001

Throne of Weapons is a chair sculptured out of guns and was designed by Kester in 2001 in Maputo, Mozambique. In African tradition, a chair or stool signifies power and progression of a king or chief. They are also considered spiritual, “They were understood to be the seat of the owner’s soul and when not in use were leaned against a wall so that other souls passing by would not settle on it” (3). Kester’s creation is a compilation of weaponry and functionality. The seat is a mixture of rifles collected from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Capable of selective firing at a rate of 600 rounds a minute is the Russian designed AKM assault rifle functioning as side leg supports. Displayed between the front legs is the Soviet designed PPS submachine gun that was intended as a low-cost personal defense weapon. The arm rests are Russian designed AK47’s capable of providing submachine firepower with rifle accuracy. Symbolizing a church is the backrest of the chair. To accomplish this, Heckler and Koch G3 German manufactured battle rifles were used along with their curved aluminum ammunition magazines. These selective-fire automatic weapons are rare and expensive. Also on the backrest top right rifle butt is an anomaly explained by Kester, “I didn’t carve the smile, it’s part of the rifle butt . . . the screw holes, and the marks left from where the strap was attached to the gun. I wanted to just use the gun as it was, not change it. So I chose the guns and the weapons that had the most expression” (2).

I find the Throne of Weapons to be a fascinating, heart retching and contradictive sculpture. When I first examined this piece, I thought the chair was made of wood; the rusty appearance of the steel and aluminum weapon metal, definitely fooled me. I thought the chair exuded a gothic quality with its connected curves of the magazine clips and symbolism of an historical event. I feel tremendous grief and glory when I examine the complex layers of meaning and symbolism embedded in this piece. As I learned about the weapons used in the sculpture, I discovered the intended purpose of each gun parallels the symbolism of the African stool. Recycling barbaric symbols of death convinces me that the people of Mozambique have ideal morals and forgiveness not common in today’s society. This memorable sculpture currently can be found on display at in a British Museum.

The artist enjoying his work.

Work citation:

(1) http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aoa/t/throne_of_weapons.aspx
(2) http://kofiannanfoundation.org/newsroom/news/2010/10/%E2%80%9C-history-world-100-objects%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%93-episode-98
(3) http://www.hamillgallery.com/EXHIBITIONS/AfricanStools.html
(4) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13890416
(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_G3
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AKM
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PPSh-43
(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47

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6 responses »

  1. Wow. That is about all I can say, is wow. I’d never heard of anyone recycling used weapons to make a chair. Were any of the weapons used in the making of the chair actually used in combat? That thought makes the chair a bit creepy.

    I think you did very well explaining the history behind this “Throne of Weapons.” You also made your reaction to the artwork very clear–I don’t think there’s any criteria for this assignment that you left off. Very nice blog post concerning a very unique piece of art.

  2. First of all, I have to say I love that you included the bottom photo of the artist, because it is, in a word, awesome. It is interesting to look at a work of art such as this coming out of a country with such a violent past. What is more interesting is that he chose to make it in the shape of a chair, a representation of power (thank you for putting that bit in there, I wouldn’t have known it otherwise). I think the artist did an excellent job of choosing the weapons that went into his work. I like that he looked for ones with “expression”. I’m not entirely sure how it makes me feel, though I tend to view art from an emotional detached point of view (though I suppose that defeats the purpose). Mostly, I just find it a unique display of symbolism and the history of the country. Great job providing back ground information. Though I do have to wonder one thing….did you mean heart wrenching or heart retching? I suppose either point could be argued…

  3. Great job again! This is one of the most interesting pieces of art that I have seen. Not only is it creative and unique, it also has a strong sense of irony about it. While I doubt those chairs are actually particularly comfortable, I do appreciate the ingenuity behind the work. As usual, you presented all your factual information well, and gave good backgrounds on the work and the artist. Top notch!

  4. Nice job! I really like the work of art. I think that pieces have so much more meaning when they are made from something so significant, like the weapons used. It is very unique. My blog is on the Trojan Horse in remembrance of the Trojan Horse Massacre. It is made out of scrap metal, but the artist had really wanted to include weapons used during the event. Unfortunately he was turned down and was not able to get any of the weapons. You did a great job presenting this functional yet artistic piece work.

  5. What an extremely intriguing piece; it’s quite a dramatic way to create a chair, isn’t it? I know a few people who’d love to keep this in their living room for a conversational piece. Your article is very well-written and informative, and your aesthetic appreciation is very clear. Overall, it was a good read. I wouldn’t have thought sculptors were using guns to create furniture! Thank you for posting.

  6. Throne of Weapons, you leave me speechless. I would have never in a million years thought to take something so ugly as weapons and create such beauty. It’s interesting to know what the stool signifies in different cultures. Africa is a land of Kings and Queens. The King does sit upon a throne. In Asia, the color gold signifies power. I wonder if the same stool was in Asia would it be considered a sign of power if it was painted gold. Or, would it symbolize power because of its material.

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