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Tree of guns takes root at the British Museum
Tree of Life by Mozambican artists.

LONDON, UK.- A half-tonne sculpture made out of chopped up guns and other decommissioned weapons was unveiled at the British Museum on 2 February 2005. The ‘Tree of Life’ was commissioned by The British Museum and overseas development charity Christian Aid to coincide with the start of the Africa 2005 season of cultural events in London.

spent three months creating the three-metre-high sculpture, made entirely out of weapons such as AK-47s, pistols and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They see it as a way of using their art to promote peace.

The weapons are collected by an innovative project, Transforming Arms into Tools, which exchanges guns for equipment such as sewing machines, bicycles, and building materials. One village received a tractor for collecting 500 weapons.

There are still millions of arms hidden throughout Mozambique – a legacy of the 16-year-long civil war that ended in 1992.

In the last nine years the project, which employs some former child soldiers, has collected and dismantled more than 600,000 weapons.

Bishop Dom Dinis Sengulane is the founder Transforming Arms into Tools, which is supported by Christian Aid.

He said: ‘I tell people that sleeping with a gun in your bedroom is like sleeping with a snake – one day it will turn round and bite you.’

Dr Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid, said: ‘It’s amazing to see how Mozambican artists build a culture of peace through creating fascinating sculptures from dismantled killing machines. This project encourages people to exchange tools of death with tools for living.’

The Transforming Arms into Tools project has been so successful in collecting guns from former soldiers that other African governments are considering implementing similar schemes.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: ‘The Tree of Life is an extraordinary, thought-provoking sculpture which is a potent emblem of the complexities linking Africa to the rest of the world. The Museum is delighted to have worked with Christian Aid on this project.’

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than three quarters of the population living on less than $2 a day.

Such extreme poverty can fuel crime. As long as the guns are still usable there is a danger that they could end up in the wrong hands and cause even more death and suffering.

The weapons exchanges have meant that many Mozambicans have been able to make a living thanks to their new tools.

Filipe Tauzene, a former child soldier, said: ‘The life I have now is much better as before I didn’t have the bicycle to move and go to town and sell things in my shop. I didn’t have iron sheets to cover my house. I have been given very useful things, which means I can get on with my life.’

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