On a recent visit to the British Museum with my Italian interpreter, a temporary exhibition caught my eye. I share it below:
The Tree of Life
The four artists who created the Tree of Life are Adelino Serafim Mate, Fiel dos Santos, Hilario Nhatugueja and Christavao Canhavato (Kester).
The Tree of Life is meant to symbolize the dynamic creativity of Africa. Mozambique suffered extensively from war and natural disasters in the later 20th century. After the armed struggle for independence from colonial rule ended, Mozambique experienced a civil war from 1976 to 1992 in which the country was used as a pawn in a struggle between opposing world powers. Many millions of weapons poured into the country during the war, most of which remain hidden or buried in the bush. Mozambicans have been encouraged to hand over weapons in exchange for items like plows, bicycles, sewing machines – in one case a whole village gave up its weapons in exchange for a tractor. Some of the weapons are then cut up and turned into sculptures by a group of artists.
Your dashing editor standing next to the Tree of Life to provide some scale:
A closeup on the tree:
And some of the critters on and around the tree:
Throne of Weapons
Made by Cristovao Canhavato (Kester)
in Maputo, Mozambique, 2001
This Throne is made from decommissioned weapons collected since the end of Mozambique’s civil war in 1992. During the war, seven million guns alone poured into the country.
The Mozambican people were encouraged to swap their weapons for agricultural, domestic and construction tools. Artists then turned the decommissioned weapons into sculptures.
This is a contemporary artwork, but thrones and stools are traditionally symbols of powers and prestige in Africa. They are also symbols of discussion and debate.
“The most powerful thing you can do is pick up a book not a gun.”
– Pentonville prisoner