The Broken Chair in Geneva, Switzerland is a poignant reminder of the damage done worldwide by landmines.
Across from United Nations European Headquarters at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland sits a poignant memorial to victims of landmines and cluster bombs. The Broken Chair monument which stands 12 metres high, was designed by Swiss artist Daniel Berset and crafted by carpenter Louis Genève.
According to the Canadian Red Cross:
- Most landmines are designed to maim, not kill;
- Mines cannot tell the difference between the footsteps of a child and those of a soldier;
- Landmines continue to find victims long after the end of an armed conflict;
- Landmines are particularly inhumane weapons that maim victims for life;
- 75% of landmine victims are civilians.
The shattered wood of the chair in this monument is intended to parallel the shattered limbs of those who step on a landmine. The monument was initially installed for a three month period leading up to the intended signing of The Mine Ban Treaty ("Ottawa Treaty") in December of 1997, however, it was left in place when many countries opted not to ratify the treaty. To those who view The Broken Chair, it serves as a visual reminder of the number of people living in war-torn areas that continue to be victimized by landmines on a daily basis and it makes us ponder why we aren't doing more to help.
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The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)
Wow, that is a huge chair … and such sad significance.
Mary @ The World Is A Book
What a sad reminder of inhumane acts. Thanks for sharing this story. The broken chair is a very fitting memorial. Even the shattered wood looks realistic and painful to see.
In a former job, I used to be in meetings at the UN in Geneva frequently, and remember looking at that chair every morning. Also, right around the corner is the Red Cross/Red Crescent Museum, another very thought-provoking experience.
The entire landmine issue is huge tragedy. I’ve been to Cambodia twice, and was shocked at the number of innocent people who have lost limbs to landmines. This sends a powerful message.
What a thought provoking monument! I’ve been meaning to put together a list of resources that we’ve used to inspiring discussions about human rights issues; this would also be great to include on that list.
WOW that is such a great reminder that a broken chair is like a broken body – except we cant be fixed as easily.
Love that…having such a big statue sure is a great way to make awareness.
It is a shame, 35 or so countries don’t intend to ratify, with USA, Russian and China leading the no-votes.
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
I bet this is a very moving monument in person. It really has a very dramatic feel to it. Thanks for sharing!
That is impressive! I like the broken limb comparison. so sad that nations employ methods to hurt civilians… on a sidenote… his huge chair reminds me of a fable. just don’t know which. any idea? I think the chair I’m thinking about is huge and red…
That really is a brilliant concept for a memorial. If that doesn’t get your attention and make you think, then you must be blind (in which case I hope you’re not driving past).
Wow, what a simple but profound reminder of the damage landmines do.
An unbelievably high percentage of civilians.
this is awesome. I was actually in another city this year that had a chair fascination! Too funny!
Important message and thought-provoking memorial. Shocking statistic about the 75% of victims being civilians.
It is very sad – hopefully at some point all of the member countries in the UN can agree to work together to ban landmines.
It is painful to look at – the artist makes his point very well. I read, however, that while the shattered leg of the chair represents shattered limbs there is another message in the work as well. The chair is still standing, despite the damage to one leg, which represents the resilience of landmine survivors who continue to live their lives despite their injuries.
I would very much have liked to visit the Red Cross/Red Crescent Museum, however, we had only a few hours in Geneva. I would definitely like to go back and see more of the city.
I’ve often wondered when there are memorials like this if they continue to have an impact on the people who walk past them everyday or if they mostly have an impact on those seeing them for the first time.
It is a horrible tragedy that so many innocent lives are ripped apart by these inhumane tools of war. I really can’t get my head around the reasoning of countries that refuse to support the ban.
I agree that this monument provides a good jumping off point to discuss human rights. Would love to see the rest of your list.
Lived in Switzerland for more than 2 years and never heard about this piece. I do love the delicate message behind it. A powerful piece like this shouldn’t be removed.
It is definitely hard to miss – I think it was intended to be a reminder for those entering the UN building in hopes that they would decide to ratify the treaty banning landmines.
I agree that it’s shameful that so many countries can’t agree to ratify this treaty and I’m proud as a Canadian that we were at the forefront of the movement to ban landmines and ratified the treaty on the first day.
It is indeed a very moving monument. A year previous to this our family visited the UN Headquarters in NYC and there was a display on landmines set up in the lobby. The information from that exhibit was still fresh in my mind and I think that made this memorial seem all the more poignant.
Well now you have me intrigued, Sabrina – I may spend the rest of the evening trying to recall a fable with a big red chair!
It is definitely attention-grabbing and makes its point very well!
It is horrible the number of civilians who are injured by these mines that are left behind after a conflict ends – even worse is the number of those civilians who are mere children.
Michele @ Malaysian Meanders
We are thinking about visiting Cambodia. When I read the U. S. State Department’s warning about land mines, it made me hesitate about bringing my kids. Of course, the Cambodian kids have no choice.
Thought provoking piece of public art.. the missing limb is such a simple but powerful idea… and yet it still stands straight. Works at many levels.
What a sad tribute but so important to have! Thanks for showing it to us. And thanks for linking up with us. Enjoy your weekend away!
That’s a concept for such an important cause. Thanks for sharing.
I had seen pictures of this before and wondered what it symbolized. I now see it has a lot deeper meaning than I originally anticipated.
Andi at The Particular Traveler
Such a powerful and poignant reminder. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Alas, not all pictures are pretty ones.
Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com
Love the imagery of that memorial. Aside from the fact that it is very creative, it really is thought provoking, and you’re right, inspiring too!
It is shocking that so many of the victims of landmine explosions are civilians just trying to go about their daily lives in the aftermath of war.
I had never heard of it before visiting Geneva either. We were at the UN Headquarters in New York the previous year and saw an exhibit on landmines and I don’t even recall seeing it mentioned there.
Definitely a tough choice to decide whether or not to take your kids to an area that is known to have landmines – difficult to balance showing them a different way of life and keeping them safe. The saddest statistics relating to landmines is how many children are victimized when they are doing nothing but trying to play.
It is definitely thought-provoking, yet I wonder how many people walk by without knowing what it symbolizes.
Thanks, Becca – we had a great weekend!
Sad, but true!
Thanks so much for explaining the significance behind this. It would be easy to see a photo of the chair and just assume it was an art instillation, minus the meaning. Really a very touching and important monument.
Quite right, Jess – I think that I probably would have assumed that it was just an interesting art installation if we hadn’t been with friends who live in Geneva and knew the significance of the piece.