Weapons and Refuse as Media: The Potent Politics of Recycling in Mozambican Urban Arts ( Fulbright Proposal 2009 )
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00102998/00001
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Title: Weapons and Refuse as Media: The Potent Politics of Recycling in Mozambican Urban Arts ( Fulbright Proposal 2009 )
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Schwartzott, Amy
Publisher: George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, FL
Publication Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2009
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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System ID: UF00102998:00001


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Amy Schwartzott, Mozambique, Art History
Weapons and Refuse a~s Media: The Potent Politics ofRecycling in M~ozanbican th ban Arts

"These materials used to kill people each bullet [used in my art] saves one life." As
Mozambican artist Gongalo Mabunda showed me his weapons art, the power of art became
tangible in his transformation of recycled weapons into art. Mabunda's outdoor workspace in
Maputo is filled with piles of chopped up AK47s, bullets, and grenades. All were collected
through the Christian Council of Mozambique' s (CCM) project, Transfornzagdo de Arnzas ent
Enxada;s TransfornzingArnas into Plowshares (TAE). TAE collects and destroys
decommissioned weapons from the Mozambican civil war, transforming them into art.
My research investigates the local and global impact of contemporary Mozambican
artists who use recycled materials in their art. The transformation of recycled materials by artists
illustrates a nexus of environmental, economic, and culturally related issues I analyze to
determine how and why artists use recyclia to create distinctly Mozambican art. Maputo,
Mozambique's capital, is a compelling case study site because of its large number of artists using
various recycled materials and its strong network of arts organizations, including TAE.
Transforming weapons into art not only prevents the weapons from killing again, but
these iconic images evoke memories of past violence, serving healing and commemorative
functions. The Mozambican civil war (1977-1992) directly followed their battle for
independence from Portuguese colonial rule. These conflicts precipitated economic collapse,
famine, and hundreds of thousands of civil war-related casualties. Bishop Sengulane, TAE
founder, told me that his project transforming weapons into art was based on the Biblical verse
"...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares." A closer reading reveals not only the desire
to promote peace, but underscores the pervasive theme in the arts of Mozambique I explore -
recycling. Mozambican artists' conceptual approach, employing recycled materials to create art,
is reflected by artist Fiel Dos Santos: "We have to start to re-find things, bring them back to use."
My research demonstrates that Dos Santos and his fellow artists use recyclia to recycle both
literally and Eiguratively, creating evocative art while deconstructing Mozambican history.
TAE is the primary focus of my investigation of artists using recycled materials. TAE
Coordinator Boaventura Zita views the program's focus based on a church mandate "to bring
peace and to forgive, not forget, and keep on touching the wound that is bleeding," as central to
TAE' s establishment in 1994. TAE's innovative approach to reconciliation and memorialization
by Mozambicans uses art as an iconic visual reminder, a mnemonic device symbolizing the civil
war' s violence. Mozambique offers the first example of using recycled weapons to memorialize
past wars, illustrating an influential grass-roots art project aimed at post-conflict resolution.
I will investigate the impact of TAE as it continues to successfully promote peace
seventeen years after the Mozambican civil war, collecting some 600,000 weapons to date.
TAE' s achievement has inspired groups in Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, and Sudan to develop
similar weapons into art proj ects. Zita told me of other pilot proj ects spearheaded by CCM that I
will also investigate, including efforts to crack down on small arms trafficking, and Weapons to
Water. Both programs transform weapons exchanged for products or services into art.
I will use direct observation, participation, interviews, photo and video documentary, and
questionnaires with artists, arts and TAE administrators, and audiences of art as raw data. Key
informants recommending others broaden my base of artists. I will engage directly with artists
through recorded, transcribed, and videotaped formal, informal, and group interviews. Specific

questions will elicit whether artists' motivations for using specific recycled materials are due to
financial, environmental, aesthetic, narrative, symbolic, or other concerns. I will analyze
meanings, breadth, and diversity of recyclia used by artists through responses to these questions.
Interviews with arts administrators will document how widespread art made from
recycled materials is in Maputo and the impact of this art. Through dialogue with TAE
administrators and direct observation, I will document the process of collecting, destroying, and
transforming weapons. Through analysis of my data, I will determine the impact and influence of
this weapon based art on other post-conflict resolution programs in Africa and globally. I will
interview viewers of art made from recyclia at galleries and public sites, assessing the effects of
distinct recycled materials as artwork through informal interviews and structured questionnaires.
The theoretical framework for my investigation draws largely from social anthropology
and visual culture studies, specifically, the writings of Igor Kopytoff and Nicholas Mirzoeff.
Kopytoff s seminal essay, "The Cultural Biography of Things," focuses on an obj ect' s
transformation from its initial use through its many lives, providing the basis for my analysis of
the incarnations of meaning in a recycled obj ect through its transformation into art. Mirzoeff' s
assertion of "the visual as everyday life" (Mirzoeff, 1999), underscores my desire to explore the
everyday aspect of recycling as a necessity and way of life in Africa and its function as a trope in
contemporary African art. The widespread presence of recycling in African art is clearly seen in
the large number of African artists using distinctly recycled materials in the recent seminal
international exhibition, Afcrica Remix. Despite this obvious prevalence, very few scholars have
focused their research on this topic (Roberts, 1996; Picton, 1998; Israel, 2006; Malaquais, 2006).
Whereas discourse on recyclia in Africa tends to focus on toys and tourist art, my research goes
beyond this, developing themes of recycling within the context of fine art and memorialization.
Most scholarship on Mozambique focuses on its protracted colonial and civil conflicts
(Isaacman, 1983; Finnegan, 1992; Penvenne, 1995; and Chabal, 1996), creating a social and
historical framework for Mozambique. Mozambican art has received little attention however,
with most art historical research focused on Makonde sculptural traditions (Kasfir, 1980; Duarte,
1987; Bortolot, 2007) and the artist Malangatana (Ngwenya, 2003). Recently, some scholars
have begun to examine contemporary Mozambican artists using weapons as media (Spring,
2005; Elmquist, 2006). Spring and Elmquist focus only on specific artists and projects within
TAE, whereas my research seeks a broader framework, analyzing many artists' use of diverse
recycled materials and making connections to recyclia in art making and art as a tool in post-
conflict resolution. My study contributes to the underdeveloped literature on the use of recycling
in African art and moves the literature forward on contemporary Mozambican art. In this way,
my research investigates globally by looking at local examples (Ferguson, 2006).
I connect TAE' s innovative, grass-roots use of art and recycling to promote peacekeeping
and memorialization to theorizations of post-conflict resolution, (Sengulane, 1994; Tutu, 1999;
Walkowitz and Knauer, 2004; DeJong and Rowlands, 2007). My research will make an
important contribution to this field where limited scholarship documents art as an aid in post-
conflict resolution (Coombes, 2000; Arnoldi, 2007). I am well prepared to complete the
proposed fieldwork successfully in Maputo for ten months. I have received affiliation letters
supporting my continued research from Boaventura Zita, TAE coordinator; Directors of the
National Museum and Ministry of Education and Culture; and faculty at Edward Mondlane
University. I will submit copies of my dissertation and research materials to these cultural arts
and educational institutions of Mozambique.

Amy Schwartzott, Mozambique, Art History

I vividly recall my first class in African art history, as it solidified my understanding of
the importance of context in relation to art. My undergraduate professor took our class to an
African art museum where he showed us masks displayed under plexiglass. I remember he said
these obj ects alone were incomplete something was missing that affected our understanding of
them. He emphasized the importance of the missing costumes, missing people, missing
drumming, and the missing feeling in the air all individual elements necessary to fully
understand these obj ects. This experience led me to comprehend the primacy of context that has
definitively shaped my own understanding of art.
Creating a context for works of art guides my research methodology. I investigate the
impact and meaning of the past lives of recycled materials and the ways in which these lives
inform meaning as they are transformed into art. Research completed in Dakar in the summer of
2007 exposed me to the pervasiveness of African artists' use of recycled materials and developed
my understanding of recycling as a trope in contemporary African art. In Dakar I was fascinated
to discover the many different motivations and intentions of artists choosing to create art from
recyclia. My pre-dissertation research in Maputo in the summers of 2008 and 2009 began my
engagement with the artists of Mozambique and has consequently strengthened and enriched my
research proposal. I developed and expanded my aff61iations and informants, and became
accepted into the arts community of Maputo. My commitment to this research can be seen in my
preparation for my research in Mozambique as well as my presentation of several research
papers at scholarly conferences that address artists using recycled materials in their art.
In 2008, my first year of research in Maputo, I employed research assistants to aid as
interpreters with my interviews. Returning to the United States, I successfully completed one
year of college level Portuguese that I supplemented by auditing an advanced Portuguese
summer class before I left again for Mozambique. My ability to navigate within Mozambican
society has enabled me to complete research and interviews in the past two summers, as I am
becoming increasingly proficient in Portuguese. Regular meetings with a private tutor improve
my language skills as well as frequent email correspondences in Portuguese with Mozambican
artists that contribute to my increasing vocabulary of artistic technical terms.
In the United States, my dissertation research is overseen by my advisors, Dr. Victoria
Rovine and Dr. Robin Poynor, who continue to intellectually challenge me and offer me
tremendous support in their areas of African art expertise. Rovine' s research specialization
focuses on African fashion and contemporary African arts, while Poynor specializes in
contemporary incarnations of African religious arts in the diaspora. Within the past year I have
successfully completed my qualifying exams, advancing to Ph.D. candidacy in African art
history at the University of Florida (UF). My continuing research on contemporary African art
informs the classes I have recently taught at UF, A~frican Popular Culture, Global Visual
Culture, and Non-Western Art. I look forward to presenting my current research, TIan tl\J, Il ina J
de Armas em Enxadas: Weapons that Destroy and Heal in M~ozambican Urban Art, at a
symposium on reconciliation in Africa in the UK in October. My teaching experience, prior
research, and enthusiasm for my proj ect in Mozambique fully prepare and qualify me as an
excellent candidate for the Fulbright grant in 2010.