Transforming Arms into Ploughshares

I came across the work of the TAE project while I was studying abroad in London last semester. On a trip to the British Museum one Saturday afternoon I found myself standing in front of a massive metal sculpture thinking to myself how impressive it looked. The plaque read “Tree of Life” and as I examined the sculpture once again I notice it was made out of guns and gun parts. I continued to read the description about the piece of artwork, searching for where it originated. Turns out it was created by a group of artist who were survivors of the 15 year civil war.

Founded in 1995 by Bishop Dom Dinis Sengulane through the Christian Council of Mozambique the Transforming Arms into Ploughshares project  (TAE) takes decommissioned weapons and transforms them into beautiful works of metal art. Bishop Sengulane’s idea behind the project was to, “facilitate community dialogue and civic education dealing with reconciliation, memory, healing and forgiveness”. In 1997 he decided to partner with a long-standing arts organization in Maputo Mozambique called Núcleo de Arte. Wanting to “glorify peace” and “visually memorialize” it Bishop Sengulane challenged artist to transform the weapons into symbols of peace.

The idea of peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and peace education through the arts is a powerful one. Through projects like TAE people are able to remember the cost of conflict by focusing the anger and frustration into something constructive. I would suggest that this example of peace education through art could be used for children and adults a like. The type of art would vary from age to age whether it is painting/drawing or carving and sculpting. In the TAE project they use metal sculpting requiring the use of tools such as welders and hammers. That type of art would obviously be reserved for the older age range.

Ways to use Resource:

Educators especially art educators who would be the best equip to implement a project like this would need ample time. It would be an ongoing project. Time would vary depending on the type of art. The “Tree of Life” sculpture that I saw in London took 3 months to create. The materials needed would be based on the type of conflict the individual was trying to portray. So in the example of TAE they dismantle guns and use other dismantled weapons as material for their artwork.


The goal of the TAE project is to help those affected by the 15 years of civil war in Mozambique reconcile the conflict. Through making artwork portraying peace it allows for the artist to remember but move forward from the past conflict. TAE is “adding another dimension to the reconciliation process by actually preventing conflict by making weapons unusable. Instead of tools for killing they become tools for peace keeping.” The TAE project touches on a few of the pillars of peace education, specifically community building because brings people together to participate in its program. The other pillar of peace education that the project exemplifies is enabling multiple intelligences and exploring approaches to peace. The pillar of approaches to peace is especially the case, because they take weapons that may still be functional and decommission them so they can’t be used for killing, but instead incorporated into artwork that portrays peace.


If I were able to share this resource with people my audience would definitely be art teachers in school or art educators in community centers. I would also try and target counselors who use alternative methods to get their patients to express his or herself in a constructive, nonviolent, and peaceful way.



United States Institute of Peace

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