Press release 16.04.2000:
Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot's controversial sculpture, the Pillar of Shame will be set up on Monday 17 April in front of the Parliament in the Brazilian capital Brasilia, after a journey of 10,000 km from its native country. The sculpture will be mounted to mark the International Day against Impunity. The Pillar in Brazil will be a symbol of the endeavour to put a end to the impunity of powerful people who are violating basic human rights, wiping out political opponents and breaching the law without the risk of being brought to justice. The reason for choosing 17 April is that on this day in 1996 the military police killed 19 unarmed landless peasants in Eldorado de Carajás in the northern state of Pará. The 19 victims were part of a demonstration claming that the Government stick to its promise of carrying out land reforms. Four years later trials are under way against the involved policemen, but those politically responsible are not brought to justice.
Already in December '99 the Pillar of Shame was donated to the Brazilian parliament to give the politicians an opportunity of manifesting their rejection of impunity. In an address to the parliament on 14 April, Senator Heloísa Helena (the Workers' Party, PT) poignantly pinpointed the purpose of the Pillar of Shame: "The setting up of the sculpture is a good occasion testifying that this Parliament is not conniving with the impunity wielding in this country." A plate on the plinth of the Pillar is saying: "The sculpture is a testament of the support to the democratic movement in the country, and to its fight for ensuring the rule of law and the inviolability of human rights in Brazil." Jens Galschiot says: " I'm surprised that we have not achieved the support of the majority of the Parliament, including the parties of the government, to a statement just saying that the Brazilian state should stick to its own ideals of being a modern state based on the rule of law."
On its way to the site in front of the Parliament the Pillar has even been subject to political obstruction in form of a false denunciation for smuggling of illegal technical equipment. Therefore the sculpture was detained in the port of Rio de Janeiro. The denunciation is presumably a hindrance fabricated by right wing political opponents.
In spite of the obstruction, the opposition has now secured an interim site for the sculpture on the square in front of the Parliament. The mounting of the sculpture will be started on Monday 17 April at 8am. During the day, events are scheduled with the participation of the MST, the landless peasants' movement and with MPs.
The Pillar of Shame is a part of a global network of 10 sculptures that are being set up all over the world to highlight serious violations of the human rights. The first Pillar was mounted in Hong Kong in 1997, where it fanned a heated debate and a lot of turmoil about the issue of free speech. The second Pillar was set up in Mexico in 1999 in cooperation with the Indian council as a symbol of the encroachments on the indigenous population. The Mexican government reciprocated by expelling the Danish artist. After the mounting of the sculpture in Brazil, another Pillar of Shame will be set up in Berlin on 9. November 2000 in cooperation with thousands of former concentration camps prisoners, as a monument for the industrial mass extermination of the Nazi regime.
More information and photos that can be used free of charge are available on the website of Jens Galschiot: www.aidoh.dk
A direct link to the Brazilian project is: www.aidoh.dk/art_and_events/pos/brazil/ukposbrazil-index.htm
Contact Jens Galschiot in Brasilia Tel: hotel: +55 -061 328 4144 room. 304 or room.306