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Germany wants amicable end to sacred rock row

  • (FILES) - Picture taken on May 29, 2012 shows people sunbathing next to "The Kueka" a red sandstone boulder weighing 35 metric tons (77,000 pounds) from Venezuela in Berlin's Tiergarten park. (AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN)

BERLIN: The German government has said it is mediating talks for an “amicable” end to a row over the return of a rock from a Berlin park considered sacred by an indigenous community in Venezuela.

The Foreign Ministry said it had put forward proposals in discussions with the parties in the protracted dispute which has led to progress “in important factual issues,” but that further talks were needed.

The dispute centers on a 30-ton rock that the indigenous Pemon people call Kueka (“grandmother”), which they claim a former Venezuelan president gave to a German artist 14-years ago without their consent.

Last week in Venezuela the indigenous community staged a protest outside the German Embassy in Caracas to demand the rock be repatriated from its current spot as part of an outdoor art exhibition in Tiergarten park.

The Foreign Ministry “is trying in talks with all parties to mediate an amicable solution,” spokesman Andreas Peschke said during a regular government news briefing.

“In order to facilitate a possible handing back of the stone and at the same time protect the interests of the artist,” he said, “the Foreign Ministry has made relevant proposals for an amicable agreement.”

The rock had been in the Canaima National Park in south-eastern Venezuela until 1998, when it was given by ex-President Rafael Caldera to artist Wolfgang von Schwarzenfeld.

The sandstone rock was transported to Germany where it was sculptured and displayed in the Tiergarten as part of a peace project called Global Stone.

Von Schwarzenfeld said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been calling for the rock to be returned for six years, based on false claims that the stone had been stolen.

“There are all the documents ... which show that it is a present from the people of Venezuela to the German people,” he said. “I am not the owner of this rock. I can’t return it.”

The German ambassador in Caracas said he would explain to officials in Berlin the rock’s spiritual interest for the indigenous community, but added that it had always been considered a gift from Venezuela.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2012, on page 16.
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