After 22 years of being on “display” in Berlin, Germany, the sacred Kueka Stone is finally returned home to the Pemon peoples in Venezuela. On April 16, 2020, following several years of negotiations and reparations, the Venezuelan government oversaw the shipment of the 60,000 pound Keuka Stone.
The Kueka Stone Controversy
Colonialism is alive and well, especially when it comes to art, history, and touristic displays. The colonial gaze has been around for hundreds of years (thousands?). One of the most demonstrative acts is the World’s Fairs throughout the early 20th century, where European and White Americans put indigenous peoples on display, like a human zoo, and really popularized the commercialization of indigenous people and sacred objects. Several sacred objects are still held captive in museums throughout Europe, long awaiting the return to their homeland.
Fernweh: Feeling homesick for a place you have never been to. (German)
Perhaps Wolfgang Kraker von Schwarzenfeld, a German artist, was suffering from a case of Fernweh when he arranged passage for the Kueka Stone with the Venezuelan government. The sacred Kueka Stone was illegally exported to Berlin to be a part of a curated display of large stones at Tiergarten Park. This illegal export was in direct opposition to the regulations on the Canaima National Park as an Area Under Special Administration Regime.
The Pemon people have worked hard to move the Kueka stone controversy forward, and bring the stone to its home: Santa Cruz de Mapauri in the Bolivar state.
The Keuka Stone, also known as Grandmother Kueka, is a symbol of nature’s balance and harmony. Grandmother Kueka’s place is rest alongside Grandfather Kueka, a star-crossed lover’s tale, or so the story goes:
The irreverent lovers fled and broke the rules of God Makunaima, who prohibited the union between the two peoples, and they were turned into stone to live together forever.
Proceedings took place in January 2000 and ruled to bring Grandmother Kueka home. No real action was taken though. In 2010, they decided to fast track the operation, and in 2018 preparations finally began to safely from the stone back to the Pemon community.
The first step, was a healing ritual performed by a Pemon representative who was sent to Germany. The Pemon healer said “We are here to perform a healing spiritual ritual for our Grandmother because she is sick. Our grandmothers have seen her crying in their visions because it misses his motherland Venezuela,”
A Hope for the Future
Perhaps we will see more global efforts to return sacred artifacts to their motherlands, or grandmother lands for that matter. Until next time, stay classy latinas!