Lifestyle & Belief

Venezuela demands Germany return "Grandmother Kueka" sandstone


Venezuela's Grandmother Kueka sandstone in a Berlin sculpture park.


Odd Andersen

Venezuela is demanding that Germany return a red sandstone considered by a tribe of indigenous people to be its "grandmother."

The 35-tonne boulder is now the main attraction at a Berlin sculpture park, where it became part of an exhibition in 1997 when artist Wolfgang von Schwarzenfeld brought it back from a trip to Venezuela, reported the Guardian. The artist claimed the sacred stone was an official gift from the Canaima National Park, where it sat before becoming a piece of art. He backed up his claims with extensive paperwork and said the Pemón people had not objected to its removal.

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But the Pemóns have said the removal of the stone, known as "Grandmother Kueka," has caused disaster, according to the Telegraph. Local legend says the sandstone forms one half of a couple turned to stone because of an illicit love affair. It also says the grandmother stone cannot be separated from the grandfather stone, or disaster will hit. Since the grandmother stone was taken from Canaima, the area has suffered drought, pestilence and a 1999 mudslide that killed 20,000.

Local paper El Diario de Guayana reported that Venezuela's attorney general confirmed von Schwarzenfeld had received permission from the administration of Rafael Caldera to take the boulder for his sculpture, but "it violated the regulations that protect" the national park.

According to Venezuela's state television, the Pemón people are planning a march June 21 to the German Embassy in Caracas to demand the sacred rock's return.

"(Von Schwarzenfeld) used the armed forces and at that time we were scared of the military. They took advantage of that to walk over us and over our culture and wisdom, because to us wisdom comes from our ancestors," Melchor Flores told state TV.

The Guardian also reported that Germany's foreign ministry said it is trying to reach an "amicable settlement" with the Venezuelans.