If Cain had a gun, he would have shot Abel. The toys we play with when we are small embody the standards we uphold for the rest of our lives. Children's toys write the script by which they enact their adult lives. This could have been a healthy thing - if only they played with Barbie dolls, racing cars and farm animals. I visited a large toy shop near my home in February 2005 and I was disillusioned to find many well-stocked aisles devoted to war toys, toy guns, alien wars and police activity. The second most represented category was that of Barbie dolls (my friend joked with a wry smile that Barbie is not as peaceful as she looks), make-believe dress and make-up. Peaceful endeavours, like building, carpentry, farming, puzzles and medical care, were noticeably under-represented. If guns and the elements of aggression are taken out of the toy shop, it will cease to exist. I am drawn to reflect on this lack of balance, this sad approval of conflict and confrontation.
Children in the Johannesburg area were asked to surrender their 'weapons' in a drive to create respect for a non-violent society. From them I received close to ninety plastic toy guns. Ironically the guns are mostly brightly coloured but some of them are so realistic that one can easily mistake them for real guns. Actual robberies have been committed with the selfsame types of toy guns.
I fixed the toy guns to two panels in a random order. To show the transition from childhood plaything to serious killing instrument of adulthood, I aged the guns by allowing sands and soils (of time) to accumulate on them. As the play guns became buried, they began to look more and more like the real thing. Buried, the guns not only look more authentic, but they are also rendered useless and unattainable. To further disqualify these seemingly genuine guns I roughly superimposed an "O" and an "X" over the two panels respectively. The "X" is an attempt to cancel out the weapons and the "O" to bring them to nought - grown-up 'toys' fortuitously slaughtered in a game of Noughts and Crosses.