Mozambican artists' collective aims to rejuvenate the local art
Nowadays, Núcleo de Arte's old villa serves as a meeting-place
for painters and sculptors. The artists' collective has been responsible
for an artistic revival in Mozambique since the end of the war.
In the open-air workshop, Mucavele is carving out a landscape from
the slab in his lap. In the shed-like outbuilding behind him, an
artist works away, fashioning a huge brown-green figure that reaches
almost to the ceiling. Works of art that at first glance appear
to be rusty steel animals, pieces of furniture and human figures
have gathered for a drink at the Núcleo de Arte bar.
But look again and you will see that these amusing sculptures
are actually made from some rather macabre materials: an old AK
47 has been bent into an ostrich shape, the backbone of a human
figure is actually the barrel from a machine gun, and in 'The Saxophonist'
by Gonçalo Armando Mabundam, you can see the contours of
a bazooka, with the horn itself being made from a cylindrical handgun.
The artists' collective has found a new artistic and symbolic use
for the deadly weapons handed in after the end of the 16-year long
war. However, for most of the more than forty artists, the war is
little more than a childhood memory. They are part of the new generation.
In 1993, they drew on their new inspiration to renovate the old
villa and have now helped bring about an artistic revival in Mozambique.
Inside, they have organised a gallery that puts on a changing programme
of temporary exhibitions by Núcleo's artists. The weapon
sculptures made the artists famous and ended their (relative) international
isolation. Núcleo's new project aims to realise an old objective,
namely that of reaching out to young artists in the provinces who
have almost no artistic facilities to hand.
No tangible steps have yet been taken towards the realisation of
these dreams, although the artists do sometimes travel to the north
of the country to host workshops. 'We need new ideas', says João
Tinga. 'At the moment, there is just one art academy for the whole
of Mozambique and standards are low. All the same, there is much
talent around. And now that the war has ended, people can start
thinking about art a bit. They may be unable to buy anything yet
but they do appreciate it.'