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Looking forward towards peace by remembering the past: Recycling war and lived histories in contemporary Mozambican art

A Schwartzott


Contemporary Mozambican artists who use detritus as media create artworks that chronicle their culture through bits and pieces of its discarded histories. By using culturally specific and symbolically charged recyclia, these artists create art that is quintessentially Mozambican, as the materials they use become potent signifiers of Mozambique. Contemporary artists’ use of recycling, in particular the recycling of weapons in the Transforming Arms into Plowshares/Transformação de Armas em Enxadas (TAE) project allows recycling to emerge as a paradigm in contemporary African art, and as a potent tool for cultural investigation. Utilizing recycling as a tool develops a broad, cross-cultural, interdisciplinary framework to investigate complex issues within divergent African and global societies. Artists in Mozambique who recycle are not only connected to cultural and artistic practices of the past, they continue these traditions within contemporary contexts. By creating artwork from cast-off materials, artists who utilize unwanted debris in Mozambique illustrate how recycling permeates all levels of society, including its broad expansion into art making, and how the use of reprocessed materials by artists both inspires and instills a sense of pride in artistic practices.

Keywords: detritus as artworks, Mozambican art, recycling, Transforming Arms into Plowshares/Transformação de Armas em Enxadas (TAE).