Managing a weapon was something that became quite familiar to Mozambicans during the southeast African country’s 16-year civil war that ended with the 1992 peace accords. Sixteen years on, the same objects that once served to kill hundreds of thousands of people are now emerging as art sculptures in a countrywide project set up by the Christian Council of Mozambique. Artists such as 41-year-old Kester (seen here), a former industrial designer, use welding to breathe a new existence into automatic rifles, rocket launchers, hand grenades and other assorted weaponry. Some of the most renowned pieces have already found a home outside the former Portuguese colony, such as ‘The Tree of Life’, on display at the British Museum, or the chair in the Vatican that was offered to the late Pope John Paul II.
The Council’s programme, called ‘Transforming Arms into Ploughshares’ after Isaiah’s biblical passage, was set up in 1995 in an effort to disarm the population by collecting the vast number of weapons that had been scattered across the country during the civil war and the 11-year colonial struggle that preceded it. In exchange for the guns, the Council hands over farming tools, building materials, sewing machines and even bicycles. So far, more than 600,000 weapons have been brought in to be destroyed or transformed into artworks.
With commentary by Cristiana Pereira