Parting with 'Love' Artist Agrees to Return Venezuelan Stone

Fifteen years ago, a German artist brought the Kueka Stone from Venezuela to Berlin for an art project on peace. But it has only bred discord. Now, he says he's willing to send the sacred stone back -- but only under certain conditions.

The Kueka Stone has sat in Berlin's Tiergarten park for 15 years.

The Kueka Stone has sat in Berlin's Tiergarten park for 15 years.

The battle over a sacred stone moved from Venezuela to Berlin 15 years ago might soon be coming to an end.

The German artist Wolfgang Kraker von Schwarzenfeld, who brought the 35-ton boulder to Berlin's Tiergarten park to be part of his "Global Stone" project, told the German mass-circulation tabloid Bild Thursday that he would return the stone to Venezuela.

"Fifteen years of work have gone into this project," he told Bild. "If I return the rock, (the project) is destroyed. Nevertheless, I am prepared to do it, but under certain conditions." Schwarzenfeld later told the news agency DPA that there were some legal and financial questions to be answered first.

More than 100 people protested at a demonstration last month in front of the German Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela's capital, demanding the return of the so-called "Kueka Stone." Many of the demonstrators were indigenous Pemon people, who consider the rock too holy to be touched by human hands.

Last month, Venezuela's parliament voted to make an official request to the German government to return the stone. At a press conference in Berlin earlier this week, Raúl Grioni, of the Venezuelan Institute for Cultural Heritage, said that: "If necessary, we will demand the return of the Kueka Stone for 100 years."

Art vs. Beliefs

Through the years of controversy, Schwarzenfeld has maintained that he had all the necessary permits for removing the stone, and that it was brought to Germany legally.

He calls his "Global Stone" project a "worldwide peace project." On his website, he details how he traveled to five continents in search of two special "sister" rocks before bringing one of them back to Berlin to sculpt and include in his exhibition and leaving the other in its original country. The stone from Venezuela is meant to symbolize love.

A Pemon legend holds that the Kueka Stone was part of a pair of rocks formed when lightning split a giant stone block thousands of years ago. The two stones represent the legend of a love story between a Pemon man and a woman from another tribe. Their inter-tribal romance displeased the Pemon god Makunaima, and he turned them into stone. The two rocks now symbolize the tribe's grandmother ("kueka") and grandfather.

Separating them, the people believe, would cause disaster to strike the area.

-- mbw with wires


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