arms into art

close up of the tree of life
close up of the tree of life

Going to the British Museum with Jack was like visiting for the first time… we went where he wanted to go. It was completely different than where I always go. No Elgin marbles for him.

jack at the brutish museumInstead we headed to the Sainsbury Galleries of African Art. I didn’t even know they existed. I’ll excuse my ignorance; they were opened in 2001 right when I was most overwhelmed by motherhood! I was expecting to indulge him; instead I was wowed! The rooms are impressive. Artistic rather than archeological.

And surprisingly moving. The Arms to Art pieces particularly. These sculpture are made from arms acquired in Mozambique after its 17 yearlong civil war. Bishop Dom Dinis Sengulane started the project 1995. He organized the exchanging of weapons of harm for tools of productivity. People who brought in guns were given things like sewing machines, bikes and ploughs. The weapons are then broken apart and given to artists as material for sculptures.


tree of life
tree of life

The large Tree of Life sculpture was created by four Mozambique artists specifically for the museum. At first glance it is just an appealing piece of art. However as you get closer (very close in my case…. must get eyes checked) you see rifle handles, pistols and grenade launchers. These are seriously horrible weapons made into something playful, beautiful and symbolic. A Tree of Life is an important icon in almost every religion.

throne of weapons
throne of weapons

The nearby Throne of Weapons is more disturbing. The weapons are more evident and the symbolism less positive. Chairs signify authority in much of Africa. Thrones are an emblem of command everywhere. The artists who create these transformative projects were personally traumatized by the civil war. They often speak about the cathartic experience of doing this art.

Given what just happened in France and continues to happen in Syria, the Middle East and Africa, perhaps the time has come for fewer weapons and more art.

back of throne
back of throne





  1. Hi Julie

    What a marvelous blog ! We had no idea this Gallery even existed at one of our favorite places. How moving and impressive ( and how you captured the meaning and spirit of it so eloquently ) ; your blog created a whole new reason to go back to London !

    Can’t tell you how we’re looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. It’s informal . . . no tie necessary, John, and there will be only the 4 of us. The address is 4001 Bayview Avenue, but the entrance is on Steeles ( first light East of Bayview ) We’re in building 1, furthest in from the gate. Visitor parking is just past the building to the South in any of the unmarked parking spaces. Dial 186 from the foyer, and we’ll buzz you in. We can hardly wait to see you; so much to talk about.

    Much love

    Bernie and Irene

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting comment re chairs and thrones. I think of the classic director’s chair which signifies command and control and authority. Cheers. Mark0

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: