These Items of War Turned Art Serve as a Hopeful Reminder for Peace in Liberia
By Larissa Clark
Manfred Zbrzezny’s Fyrkuna Metal Works is huddle of old shipping containers at the end of a dusty track off the main road that leads out of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
Manfred first came to Liberia in 2003. A trained blacksmith and artistic designer it was his “arms to art“ project I read about in an old magazine in an American library that inspired me to go and find him. Since 2007, he has worked on a weapon conversion project, turning weapon scrap left over from the bloody 14-year civil war’s disarmament process into pieces of art and sculptures.
His first commission was a banister with a marine design for a restaurant on the Saint Paul River, home of the local fishing club. He went on to design the interior furniture using RPG launchers, AK 47 barrels and wood. In 2011, Save the Children commissioned a piece for their fundraiser “Festival of Trees”.
In town he’s best known for the small trinkets and portable sculptures that are snapped up as gifts and mementos by the many foreign aid and development workers in Liberia ““ a macabre keepsake for their time and efforts in this fragile West African state.
Candle holders made from AK47 triggers? Bookends made from the gun barrels of child soldiers? Warlord RPG launchers turned desk sculptures? ““ is it recycling gone mad?
No. Is the simple answer.
Manfred works together with welders and trainee apprentices to produce designs that turn the weapons’ disturbing raison d’Ãªtre upside down by creating shapes of nature and serenity: fish, sea creatures, birds and trees.
It’s a complex process in which a destructive device, which has been demobilized, becomes a creative part in the metal design.
The work is intended to be a reminder “not to forget” while expressing hope for a peaceful life in Liberia. It’s a symbol that we all have the capacity to transform past suffering into something positive. And, in a year that marks a decade of peace in Liberia, it’s a fitting time to celebrate the collective efforts of all who have helped in their own creative way, to move Liberia forward, peacefully, towards a better future and away from the dark days.
Who’d have thought a bottle opener could feel so profound … before you’ve even had the wine?
Larissa Clark is the Co-Founder of adventure travel specialists Another World Adventures, the place to go if you’re looking for an out-of-the-box experience or inspiration for an extraordinary journey. When not organising trips of a lifetime for others she’s experiencing them herself recently having sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and taken her 21 year old Nissan Patrol on a road trip from Liberia to Senegal through Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and the Gambia in West Africa. She splits her time between London, Vancouver and Monrovia where she freelances on a range of projects on issues of environmental justice, human rights, social enterprise, adventure tourism and sustainable development.
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