Sculpture Sets Off Legal Battle

Fight Rages Over Seized African Sculpture

Goncalo Mabunda's "War Throne."Read about the legal battle this piece has stirred up:

“War Throne” is a sculpture by Mozambican sculptor Goncalo Mabunda. Created from decommissioned weapons and warfare debris left behind during his country’s 15 year civil war.

The piece arrived in the United States after it was purchased by Adam Solow who claims other works by Mabunda of similar construction have been allowed into the country as they pose no danger.

Customs agents do not share Solow’s assessment and have confiscated the work.

It’s now in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which is refusing to return it unless Solow applies for a firearms importation permit or uses a broker, he said.

Even then, the ATF would require that many of the chair’s parts be dismantled or destroyed.

“This is a piece of art, a cultural object,” Solow said Thursday. “Unless I was MacGyver, I don’t know how I’d be able to reconstitute all those pieces and make it into a working weapon.”

Solow, a collector of contemporary African art, was drawn to the sculpture because he felt the artist was able to create something wonderful out of the “disgusting and deadly” elements.

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Original article by Alex Wigglesworth,

Photo of Goncalo Mabunda’s “War Throne” courtesy Adam Solow