Artisans in Laos Upcycling Unexploded Bombs into Jewellery and Home Decor

It's a story about war and peace. Proof of resilience. 

Laos is a landlocked country surrounded by Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China and Myanmar. Most of the country is undeveloped and remains covered with forest and mountains.

Between 1964 and 1973, Laos suffered heavy bombings, in what is other words known as "America's Secret War".  As part of America’s strategy against communism, American air force dropped an average of one attack every eight minutes for nine years, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history per capita. This resulted in a tenth of the countries population being killed on top of tens of thousands of more accidental deaths and injuries, which continue to this day. With millions of unexploded ordnance (UXO) still buried deep in the soil and scattered across the country, the Laotian people remain vulnerable and at risk.

To date, less than one percent of the bombs have been removed and Laos remains one of the poorest nations in the world. This reality brings us to the village of Ban Naphia...

ban naphia remote village in Laos

Its a rough road entering Ban Naphia, a small village in one of the most heavily bombed provinces in Laos. Many of the families in this village, which only has 42 homes, are artisans who have learned the craft of transforming recycled war aluminum into something beautiful. What started out with the intention to make spoons for practicality, they now handcraft jewellery and home decor products by upcycling the unexploded bombs.

bombs dropped in Laos

Some of the UXO found in Laos. The small size of many of the bomblets used during the Secret War make it easy for the local children to mistake as toys, resulting in serious and fatal injuries. 

Earthen kilns are found in many of the artisans backyards. They use homemade wooden molds to create new products from the recycled aluminum war scrap metal. 

A Million Elephants artisan partner in Laos

By partnering with 2 local families in the village, we are providing them an opportunity to earn a secondary income, while encouraging the safe removal of landmines. Some of our favourite handcrafted products from our UXO Collection is our peace hoop earrings and lucky elephant figurine

To learn more about Xieng, one of the makers, click here.