The Tree of Life sculpture was produced within the scope of the “Transforming Arms into Tools” (TAT) project founded by Bishop Dom Dinis Sengulane, Chairman of the Christian Council of Mozambique, a partner organisation of Christian Aid, an international development charity founded in 1953 and working in more than fifty countries with over 600 partner organisations helping some of the poorest communities irrespective of religion, race and background.
After a sixteen-year-long civil war which ended in 1992 and devastated Mozambique taking the lives of an estimated one million people, the innovative “Transforming Arms into Tools” project was devised to collect guns from former soldiers and to exchange them for equipment such as sewing machines, bicycles, building materials, tractors or any other tools which would enable people to make a living. In fact, an estimated seven million arms remain hidden throughout the country in spite of the action taken by this project which employs some former child soldiers – among them some of the artists who created the Tree of Life – and which has collected and dismantled more than 600,000 weapons over nine years. These weapons were poured into the country by Britain, several European countries and the USA.
Considering the huge amount of arms spread throughout Mozambique, guns which are still usable can end up in the wrong hands and cause even more death and suffering, especially in a country which is one of the poorest in the world with more than three quarters of the population living on less than €2 a day.
Aware of both the problems and the need to take effective action against them, Bishop Sengulane found inspiration in the Bible and created the TAT project under the concept of exchanging arms into ploughshares, thus immediately reminding us of Isaiah when he says, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks” (Isaiah, 2:4). It was officially launched in October 1995 by the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) with the participation of several national and international NGOs.
Part of this project, the “Transforming of Arms into Works of Art” activity, as the title reveals, dealt with the transformation of the collected weapons into works of art, ornaments or even practical objects such as chairs in order to promote the culture of peace. Monuments and sculptures were produced from fragmented weapons to be exhibited to the public or permanently installed in public squares, parks or any other public spaces.