UK artist carves a tribute to Spain's civil war heroes
Catalonia The Observer UK artist carves a tribute to Spainâs civil war heroes
Public will help create Catalan sculpture to honour ship torpedoed on way to fight fascism
Exactly how many died will probably never be known. But history records that at least 45 men drawn from countries all over the world were ki lled on 30 May 1937 when their ship, the Ciudad de Barcelona, was torpedoed off the coast of Catalonia by a submarine.
The men were among 300 International Brigadistas heading to Spain to fight for the Republican cause against Spainâs fascist-led Nationalist forces.
Fishermen living near the coastal town of Malgrat de Mar in Barcelona province helped save more than 120 men, but scores were trapped below as the ship went down. Witness accounts say the brigadistas sang the Internationale as they sank. At least 23 of the survivors were later killed in the civil war.
âIt was late afternoon,â recalled Alun Menai Williams, a Welshman who wrote a book about his experiences, From the Rhondda to the Ebro. âI was leaning on the shipâs rail taking in my first view of Spain and its shoreline, some one and a half miles in the distance, when th ere came one hell of an almighty bang. The ship shook, tried to get airborne, before settling down at a crazy angle.â
âIt was a pretty dirty business,â another survivor, an American named Jack Freeman, said. âSome fellows were killed while they were asleep, some were trapped below decks.â
Memory of the tragedy, as with many other stories from the Spanish civil war, was suppressed under General Franco. But now a British-born sculptor based in Catalonia is to create a lasting memorial to the brigadistas and the rescuers.
When finished, Solidarity Park will consist of 60, half-metre tall sculpted figures, carved in local limestone. The figures, representing the brigadistas, will be portrayed singing aboard an abstract interpretation of a ship which has seating designed as waves and will be situated on top of a stone patio map of the world.
Its creator, Robert MacDonald, originally from Rugby in Warwickshire, said the sculpted figures will be identical in form, representing âthe unity of the struggle of the Brigadiers, but each will have individual carved features thus expressing the diversity of us allâ.
The project, which MacDonald hopes will be completed by the end of May next year, to mark the 82nd anniversary of the sinking, will be a collaborative effort involving students, historians, local people and the families and friends of the brigadistas.< p>Public workshops will encourage people to help carve the sculpture which will be displayed in a small park on the beach at Malgrat de Mar. So far more than â¬13,500 has been raised via a crowdfunding campaign towards the estimated â¬20,000 costs of the project.
âThis is a memorial and a project for everybody,â MacDonald said. âThatâs why I donât want to go into my workshop, tap away and present something. I want people to say âI helped make that, thatâs my history.â
âParticipation is really important. Art in a sense is slightly in jail in society. Itâs behind locked doors. For me community art isnât like pottery class on Tuesday night. Itâs about people creating something that has political and cultural significance. I donât think art exists like this in the true sense these days.â
MacDonald said the project was about using art to expose the truth. âThis project is also about uncovering the history and the more noise we make, the more we find out.â
He had decided on the project after reading about his namesake who died when the ship went down. âIt blew me away. Hereâs this guy, Rob Macdonald, who was 23 years old, who didnât get to the Spanish civil war, who put his life on the line. He had pretty much the same politics as me. One of the journeys for me with this project was finding his family and learning a little bit about him. Heâs an individual I have a really powerful connection with.â
MacDonald hopes the work will encourage people to think about the treatment of foreigners, immigrants and refugees at a time when tensions appeared to be rising.
Itâs a story that is relevant to many situations in the world at the present time. âFor me as an artist, our job is to say things in a different way to help people to actually see it,â he said.
When asked if there was a shortage of memorials to the civil war in Spain, MacDonald said: âI would say thereâs a shortage of understanding of what took place. Thatâs why Iâm opening up the memorial process. If itâs going to be a m emory of the people then people should do it. How do you think Easter Island was done? The whole community was involved.âTopics
- The Observer
- Francisco Franco
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