Contrary to conventional wisdom, artists have long welcomed war. For both the traditional and experimental artists, war and conflict have presented a unique dualism that has enabled art and design to become a vehicle for anti-war movements. And much like art, jewelry, too, has held a historically unique dichotomy within local societies and communities across Africa.
Jewelry has not only been a symbol of wealth and stature, but it has also been considered a means of stability and sustenance for local communities. In Arusha, Tanzania, modern and contemporary brands like Sidai Designs commemorate the Maasai beading tradition by collaborating with Maasai women to create accessories that merge traditional honored beadwork with a modern aesthetic. In Kenya, Adele Dejak takes a dynamic approach to preserving the essence of traditional materials used by Kenyan tribes to create contemporary repurposed brass jewelry.
Humanium Metal’s social enterprise model transforms weapons of war into beautiful ornaments at the intersection of protest art and sustainability. Inspired by much of the world’s anti-war art, Humanium Metal emanates from the global ‘Arms to Art’ movement. This gunmetal is an upcycled stainless steel repurposed from illegal firearms. It is the world’s first value chain to transmute weapons of mass destruction into raw materials sold globally and commercially. As an international organization, its sole purpose is to overhaul weapons of war and reconfigure them into peaceful products that promote violence prevention efforts across the globe.
Humanium pipeline. Photo: via Humanium Metal.
What emerged initially as a pilot project in El Salvador quickly attracted the attention of the African Union (AU) as part of their commitment to “silence the guns” through their peace campaign under Agenda 2063. As an affirmation of their commitment to this strategic framework, in December 2020, Zambian authorities gathered in Lusaka where the first symbolic destruction of illegal weapons took place. This great meltdown is the first of its kind on the continent, marking a whole new chapter for the AU in its efforts to silence all guns. Over 6,200 seized firearms were set on fire and melted down, ready to be transformed into ‘peace jewelry.’
“We work with local authorities to destroy the seized firearms and convert them into a metal powder that can be used for 3D printing. This is what you need to create jewelry,” explains Jacqueline Duere from Humanium Metal. The gunmetal is then exported, fortified, and sold to commercial partners worldwide to transform them into tangible (fashion) statements against the illicit arms trade. The Humanium Metal ingot weighs approximately 4.5kg, the same as an AK47, and is rapidly being recognized as the true symbol of positivity.
Arild Links Blackness to blaze bracelets made with Humanium. Photo: via Arild Links.
Arild Links bracelets. Photo: via Arild Links.
TRIWA gunmetal watch made with Humanium. Photo: via TRIWA.
Inspired by the vast history of war-inspired artistic expression, ateliers across the globe have turned to Humanium Metal to create intricate jewelry. Arild Links, for example, uses Humanium Metal to create a visual language infused with a rebellious spirit for the modern consumer. The Changes Diamond collection is an exquisite collection of handcrafted jewelry rooted in the spirit of sustainable materials. With its bold colors, the bracelet uses ethically sourced braided rope made from recycled PET bottles and Humanium Metal, embossed with light brown diamonds to create a delicate and effortless aesthetic. The diamonds atop the Humanium Metal plate create an intricate and minimalist design, making it easy to incorporate into essentially any existing collection.
Similarly, TRIWA watches come with a solid Humanium Metal case. Their Time for Peace collection is made with contrasting metal finishes, stamped-out indexes, revolver chamber crown design, and signal red details. Concerning the materials used in the production, the dark gunmetal held up by recycled PET canvas straps is an exceptionally bold fashion statement with an industrial tone, making it a perfect fashion statement for the daring trendsetter. From Mozambican politician Graça Machel to Abrima Erwiah, co-founder of ethical African-American fashion brand Studio 189, Humanium Metal jewelry has attracted many across the globe, and its products are quickly becoming the next bold fashion statement against gun violence.
Duere explains how the proceeds from the sale of the ingots get reinvested within societies affected by gun violence. She explained that of “the sales from the metal and the royalties [Humanium Metal] receives, 70% of all income goes back to the country of origin through local advocacy groups on the ground.” As such, Humanium Metal is the world’s first precious metal that contributes to saving human lives.
Jewelers across the globe are meeting a growing international appetite for sustainable and ethical luxury products, enabling international NGOs to work together across borders to implement circular solutions that reinforce the duality within jewelry, carving out solutions that seek to minimize the environmental and communal impact. With over 500 gun-related deaths every day, Humanium Metal is the embodiment of ethical jewelry, compounded with a sustainable business model solving a global crisis one trinket at a time.
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