Peace Art Cambodia: Guns Into Sculpture


Image for an editorial cartoon: the curb-side recycling program in post-war Cambodia, the blue hopper for paper, brown for bio, green for plastics and yellow for small guns and weapons. Were that it was so simple. Over 160,000 light weapons have been collected for destruction by the joint effort of the Royal Cambodian Government and the EU Assistance program. Getting citizens to part with the built-up hoard of guns has generated campaigns such as the "flame of peace" in which weapons are publicly destroyed to raise awareness. Now with the Peace Art Cambodia project, some of those weapons are being diverted to a project to unleash the creativity of artists whose experience with the history of their raw materials lends a poignancy to the concept of recycling. Some pieces are practical, like the seats pictured here, but some of the sculptures speak in the unique voice of a people that has witnessed local horror and devastation against the backdrop of globalization(picture follows).

In particular, a representation of the cartoon character Bugs Bunny, his entire body composed of weapons parts with the exception of a prosthetic leg which supports him in his traditional laid-back posture, has the ability of great art to communicate many messages simultaneously. Is it an inspiration for childhood recovered after tragedy? An absurd conjunction of the levity of global symbols against the reality of armed conflict? A confirmation that the weapons are silenced and peace now presides?

The Peace Art Cambodia project assists in the development of metal-working skills at the Royal University of Fine Art in Phnom Penh. Over two hundred works of art have been created to date, half of which have been sold. After the artists are compensated, the remaining funds are to be re-invested to ensure the continuity of the project. The next phase is the pursuit of relationships with galleries and educational institutions in Asia, Japan, Europe and the USA to develop markets for the work of a new generation of Cambodian artists.