After John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd created a bronze sculpture entitled Non-Violence featuring a .357 Magnum revolver with the barrel tied in a knot.
Over the last 25 years, the nonprofit Non-Violence Project Foundation has helped that colloquially called Knotted Gun become iconic. Its oversize replicas are mounted in at least 30 civic places, including in front the United Nations building in New York. The proceeds of each commission go toward supporting NVPF’s larger mission of youth nonviolence prevention and conflict management education worldwide.
Now the group is partnering with the Dalai Lama to create a limited run of 150 small-scale Knotted Gun replicas from a material that drives the peace message home even more. They’re made from Humanium Metal, which is created from melted-down illegal firearms. One of those replicas, signed by the Dalai Lama, is expected to be auctioned at Sotheby’s later this year. The proceeds of the entire (yet-to-be-priced) line will benefit both NVPF and the maker of Humanium Metal, an international nonprofit called IM Swedish Development Partner.
Humanium Metal started in 2016 as the pro bono concept of two Stockholm-based creative agencies, which recognized that salvaging and repurposing confiscated weapons could create new value for goods that are most authorities otherwise dump or destroy. In 2018, upscale watchmaker TRIWA began using Humanium Metal to create custom watches. It’s also been converted into a lines of spinning tops and wrist bangles. IM uses the proceeds from its sales to fund nonviolence initiatives in the areas it sources. The Humanium Metal Initiative was one of the winners of Fast Company’s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards.
“The symbolic value of converting something negative that has been used for killing somebody else into a commodity that can help people, that’s the important thing,” says Peter Brune, a senior advisor for IM, who helped start the effort. In this case, the revenues from all sales will benefit both groups with their continuing missions.
So far, the Humanium Metal effort has converted about 3,500 government-confiscated firearms from El Salvador into roughly five tons of stainless steel powder, which can be reshaped into bars or used in 3D printing. The Dalai Lama has also committed to installing a large-format sculpture in Dharamasala, India, the city where he and the Tibetan government-in-exile reside. Some part or portion of that will be Humanium, although the exact amount is still being decided.
“Using illegal weapons to do a sculpture is of course absolutely the best scenario we could have,” adds Jan Hellman, the chairman of NVPF. “It gives added value to what we’re doing in the sense that illegal weapons are off the streets and we do something with them.”