Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Arms into art: Weapons of mass creation

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
June 18, 2013 -- Updated 0831 GMT (1631 HKT)
Liberia-based Fyrkuna Metalworks is transforming decommissioned weapons from the West African country's long civil war into whimsical sculptures.
Liberia-based Fyrkuna Metalworks is transforming decommissioned weapons from the West African country's long civil war into whimsical sculptures.
HIDE CAPTION
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
When guns fall silent
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Craftsmen in Liberia transform scrap weapons into artwork
  • Their art ranges from furniture and candle stands to lamps and trees
  • Liberia descended into a vicious civil war in 1989 that last for 14 years
  • Fyrkuna Metalworks say its work is part of the nation's healing process

(CNN) -- Manfred Zbrzezny wants to bulk up his arsenal.

For the past few years, the founder of the Liberia-based Fyrkuna Metalworks and his team of skilful craftsmen have been collecting weapons scrap -- relics of the West African country's vicious civil conflict -- for their Arms into Art project.

From their open-sided workshop near Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the artisans expertly cut, melt and weld scrap metals to fashion them into intricate sculptures.

In their hands, decommissioned AK-47s, RPG launchers and bazookas are transformed into elaborate candle stands, whimsical lamps and even life-size metal trees.

Candle stands, by Fyrkuna Metalworks.
Cameron Zohoori, TogetherLiberia.org

"What was an instrument of suffering can become something beautiful and useful," says Zbrzezny, a German/Italian artistic blacksmith who's been calling Liberia home since the mid-2000s.

Read this: Artist gives trash a second chance

"I want to do something serene out of all these things that are violent and nasty," he adds. "I prefer doing my pieces a little bit funny or sweet, instead of doing something macabre or rough."

Remnants of war

For materials, Fyrkuna first relied on the decommissioned instruments of warfare gathered during Liberia's disarmament process.

Mobile phone stands, by Fyrkuna Metalworks.
Fyrkuna Metalworks

On some occasions, individuals who've come to know their work have also brought in discarded guns they've found for the craftsmen to work with.

Zbrzezny, whose team of Liberian workers includes four staff and two trainees, says he is now looking to expand the project and hopefully export of some of his artwork abroad.

Read this: Artwork shows conflict in new light

"I am trying to convince the United Nations mission in Liberia to turn over their weapons scrap to me so I could continue this work," he says.

'Healing process'

Liberia, the oldest republic in Africa, descended into darkness in 1989, mired in the grip of a brutal civil war that shattered much of its economy and infrastructure.

Read this: Fixing Liberia's water crisis

There's nobody who wasn't affected by the war.
Manfred Zbrzezny, Fyrkuna Metalworks

Although the fighting came to an end in 2003, leaving an estimated 250,000 people dead and thousands more displaced, many in Liberia still bear the deep scars of years of conflict.

"There's nobody who wasn't affected by the war," says Zbrzezny, who first traveled to Liberia before the end of the conflict in 2003.

He describes Fyrkuna's work as a way of helping the nation heal its wounds by transforming the destructive devices of its war-torn past into something positive.

"Looking at Arms into Art the majority of people remains thoughtfully silent," he says. "This moment of silence acts like a flashback, a remembering of the war and ... is also an indicator for me that there is a long psychological work to do on the war issue.

"There is still a lot of digestion on that and I hope somehow I'm part of that."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
lake retba, senegal
On the edge of Senegal's Cap Vert peninsula, a lush coastal region, lies Lake Retba ... a coral pink lake.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Meet the Rolling Rockets, the skate soccer team made up of polio survivors.
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 1009 GMT (1809 HKT)
Italian photographer Marco Casino spent a month capturing 'staff riders', or train surfers, in Katlehong, a South African township about 20 miles southeast of Johannesburg.
A group of South African youths have taken up the deadly sport of train surfing. For them, it's a shot at redemption.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 0437 GMT (1237 HKT)
Vintage helicopters, ziplines, private flying safaris offer new, spectacular views of wildlife and rugged terrain.
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
The Hadza are one of the oldest people on Earth. Today, they battle for land, and continued survival.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
No one knows what causes "fairy circles" in Namibia's desert. A new study, however, may have solved the mystery.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
South African photographer Frank Marshall captured Botswana's heavy metal rockers as part of his Renegades series.
You might not associate Botswana with rock music, but in recent years its heavy metal scene has been making a name for itself.
January 29, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
The ruined town of Great Zimbabwe is part of a kingdom that flourished almost 1,000 years ago, and a bridge to the past.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
Unhappy with Liberia's image on the Internet, a photographer decided to present his own view, using GIFs.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 1016 GMT (1816 HKT)
Makoko Floating School
A new wave of African architects are creating remarkable buildings in the continent, and beyond.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1030 GMT (1830 HKT)
Vintage clothes are proving a hit with fashionistas across Africa, as retro goes back to the future.
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.
ADVERTISEMENT