There are currently more than 30 ongoing wars or conflicts worldwide. But some people are working on it. In case they succeed in ending these, we will have plenty of symbols and signs to disclose the achievement. Pictures of a dove with an olive branch, the CND sign by Gerard Holtom, the new interpretation of the victory-sign hand gesture, or the “Pace” rainbow flag, there’s much to chose from. But there’s one more symbol, whose presence is slowly spreading all around the world.
In 1980 Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd created an artwork, known as “Non violence” or “The knotted gun”, for reasons described as follows:
When the artist learned that his friend, John Lennon, had been murdered, he became so upset and angry over this senseless death and the many other outbursts of unnecessary violence that he went to his studio and started working on the “non-violence” project. “My first sketches in three dimensions were rather rough and simple, but the important thing was that the idea of the knotted barrel was with me from the very start,” he said.
The swedish artist produced different variations of the piece, the most famous being the sculpture installed in 1985 in Malmo/Sweden. It consists of a large replica in bronze of a 45-calibre revolver, the barrel of which is tied into a knot. The gun is cocked, but the knot makes it clear that it will not shoot.
Replicas of the sculpture have been installed in many countries since then, one being in New York/USA at the Grounds of the United Nations. It was one of the first three versions of the sculpture, bought by the Luxembourg government and offered to the UN in 1988. It was said then that:
With Non-Violence, Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd has not only endowed the Untited Nations with a cherished work of art; he has enriched the consciousness of humanity with a powerful symbol. It is a symbol that encapsulates, in a few simple curves, the greatest prayer of man: that which asks not for victory, but for peace.
Other replicas can be found
- in Luxembourg/Luxembourg, on Kirchberg in front of the Jean Monnet Building. It is the third of the original three sculptures, the other two being in Malmo and New York. Pictures on this site.
- in Berlin/Germany at the parc of the federal chancellery. It was unveiled in 2005 by chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who received it from Reuterswärd in recognition of his Iraq policy (english articles about the unveiling here and here, german background article here, picture here)
- in Caen/France at the Mémorial de Caen, a world war II museum close to the disembarkments in Normandy. Unveiled in 2005. (pictures of the “canon noué” can be seen here and here, articles here and here)
- in Cape Town/South Africa at the entrance to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. It was unveiled in 1999 when the government announced its stringent new gun conrol legislation. (pictures here and here)
- in Liverpool/UK, in Cavern Walks shopping centre, next door to the original site of the famous Cavern Club in Mathew Street where the Beatles played in their early days together. It was unveiled in 2000 by Dr Michael Nobel, then head of the Nobel family society and chairman of the Non-Violence Foundation (article here)
- in Lausanne/Switzerland at the Olympic Museum (picture here or here)
- in Stockholm/Sweden (1995 – unveiled by HRH Princess Victoria of Sweden in the middle of Sergelgatan, picture here)
- in Miami/USA (no pictures found)
- in Göteborg/Sweden (1997 – Kungsportsavenyn & Engelbrektsgatan, picture here)
Reuterswärd wrote later that humor was the finest instrument to bring people together. While making his peace symbol, he thought of adding a touch of humor to make his “weapon” symbolically ridiculous and completely out of order.A flickr set of this remarkable John Lennon memorial can be found here, including sculptures and sketches.
The Non-Violence Project Foundation was registered in Bagnes Valais, Switzerland in 1993 and has offices in Stockholm, New York, Miami, Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, South Africa and London.
If you know details about other places where the sculpture can be found, feel free to share your wisdom here. There should be at least 11, according to other sources more than 20.
Update2009: It was brought to my attention that in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), at a roundabout near the Japanese Bridge, a giant revolver with a large knot tied in the barrel was revealed in 1999, after the government seized all the guns it could find. It’s no Reuterswärd, but it’s pretty obvious what inspired this one (picture here and here).