The mythical Kueka, a jasper stone several tons heavy, is being returned to Venezuela by Germany after being in display at the Tiergarten park in Berlin for 22 years, giving the Nicolas Maduro regime a rare motive for celebration in a sea of bad news recently.
The return of Kueka is also expected to give some respite to the Pemon people of Southern Venezuela, who venerate the rock and call it “grandmother”. The Pemon have been the victims of massacres and pollution generated by the illegal gold mining activities in the fragile ecosystem known as the Minning Arch, which that comprises 12% of the Venezuelan territory, mostly delicate Amazonian jungle, and important rivers.
Maduro’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza, trumpeted the news on Twitter, posting images of Kueka being removed from Tiergarten by workers with specialized equipment. It will take several weeks for the relic to arrive in the town of Santa Cruz de Mapauri, Bolivar state, near the Canaima national park, previously off-limits to gold mining but now rife with the activity.
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There, “grandmother” will finally rejoin with “grandfather” Kueka, a similar stone. In Pemon mythology, the rocks represent a couple of lovers from different groups, a Pemon and a Macuxi, who intermarried, defying custom. For their disobedience, they were turned into twin rocks by Makunaima – the top deity in the Pemon pantheon – condemned to spend eternity together.
That eternity ended in 1998 when the Maduro regime claims the grandmother rock was illegally removed and sent to Germany. Now, granny is returning to meet her lover of centuries in once-pristine land, currently ravished by violence and pollution like most of Venezuela.
The rock was removed in 1998 by sculptor Wolfang von Schwarzenfeld to integrate into the Global Stone exhibition in Tiergarten, close to the Brandenburg gate. In spite of Canaima being a national park, then Inparques park directorate head Hector Hernandez Mujica, gave the go-ahead for the rock’s removal, arguing it would be a “donation from Venezuela” to the exhibition.
In 1999, when Vargas state floods and landslides in which some 50,000 died, the Pemon community said it was caused by the removal of the Kueka stone. The balance of nature had been altered by the move.