Arms into Art: Liberian Style

  • February 9, 2017

I work since 2007 on the weapon conversion project – arms into art. The weapon scrap is a left-over from the disarmament process.

The first request was if I could create a banister with a marine design for a restaurant on the Saint Paul River, home of the local fishing club .Having completed this I designed furniture for the same place made from RPG-launchers, AK- 47 barrels and wood.

My next job was to create small objects such as candle stands, bookends, school bells and bottle openers. In 2008 on request by Save the Children – UK, I developed a small tree for their fundraiser “Festival of Trees”, which was auctioned for 24.000 Pound Sterling entirely for the benefit of Liberian children. Children from 2 communities in Monrovia collaborated on this project with drawings and words on the importance of peace.

These small messages on paper were placed into shell casings hanging on the tree as its fruits .The Company that purchased it decided to sponsor a bigger tree for the people of Liberia. This peace tree is in place on Providence Island since 2011.

I produce these objects together with the welders and trainees of Fyrkuna metalworks. In the design I try to create a contra point to the mean implications of weapons by shapes of nature and serenity.
To transform arms into art illustrates the complex process in which a destructive device, which has been demobilized, becomes a creative part in the metal design.

Working on weapon scrap in Liberia has its implications .For example the peace tree is intended to be a reminder ” not to forget ”  and to express our hope for a peaceful life in Liberia. It carries a message for the Liberian people, they can transform their past suffering into something positive. A prolonged civil war leaves wounds in both society and individuals and reconstruction is not only a material process but also somehow spiritual.

A way of helping in this healing process is transforming arms into art. Furthermore it is a clear political statement.
Looking at arms into art the majority of people remains thoughtfully silent, some feel uncomfortable and a few enthusiastic.

A marine while observing a sculpture remarked, “You are making a long nose to all soldiers.”
During the working process the blacksmith can have his flight of thoughts related to what he is producing. On weapon scrap is naturally the thought of what became of the perpetrators and the victims. This moment often leads me to leave the work for a while, but getting used to the material brought me to see it just as scrap. But the thought still occurs “what became of…”

Someone is expressing himself by singing; someone is expressing himself by shooting. It is the duty of those that sing to stop the others from shooting.

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