Arts of Africa
ART OF DESIGN
African artists have a long history of responding to fresh design concepts, while always revising them to ends both practical and novel. Together, these three works trace the evolution of a single form: first, as an imported idea became African, and then as contemporary artists adapted this African form for a global market.
Most seats in sub-Saharan Africa are low stools, carved from a single block of wood. Yet, as early as the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders and explorers introduced chairs with backs to southern and eastern Africa. Chokwe artists soon began to produce similar chairs, adding sculptural scenes and Chokwe motifs. This wood chair was carved as an object of status for a chief.
In fact, none of these three chairs were meant for sitting. Gonçalo Mabunda's Harmony chair uses decommissioned handguns, bullet belts, and other munitions collected from the estimated 7 million weapons left in Mozambique following the end of its civil war in 1992. Its design references a coastal East African tradition of high-backed chairs that were symbols of power and prestige, discussion and debate.
The Sansa chair, an inventive deconstruction of the chair form, is among the original creations that have established Cheick Diallo as one of Africa's leading contemporary designers. Built at Diallo's direction by artisans from Bamako, the half-reclining Sansa chair seems to sit midway between a European notion of the chair as a leisure object and a West African idea of the chair as a support for displaying a person of status.
Welded weapons (handguns, rifles, land mines, bullets, machine gun belts, rocket-propelled grenades), iron alloy
56 1/8 × 34 1/4 × 26 1/2 in. (142.6 × 87 × 67.3 cm) (show scale)
This item is not on view
Bequest of Samuel E. Haslett, by exchange, gift of Mrs. Morris Friedsam, Georgine Iselin, and Mrs. Joseph M. Schulte, by exchange and Designated Purchase Fund
© Gonçalo Mabunda
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Gonçalo Mabunda (Mozambican, born 1975). Harmony Chair, 2009. Welded weapons (handguns, rifles, land mines, bullets, machine gun belts, rocket-propelled grenades), iron alloy, 56 1/8 × 34 1/4 × 26 1/2 in. (142.6 × 87 × 67.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Samuel E. Haslett, by exchange, gift of Mrs. Morris Friedsam, Georgine Iselin, and Mrs. Joseph M. Schulte, by exchange and Designated Purchase Fund, 2013.26.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2013.26.2_threequarter_PS9.jpg)
3/4, 2013.26.2_threequarter_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
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