Fernando Botero’s Dove of Peace, a controversial emblem of Colombia

By Figaro with AFP

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in 2016, joyfully received in Bogota The Dove of Peace by sculptor Fernando Botero. AFP/Juan David Tena

The famous sculpture by the Colombian master, who died on September 15, 2023, has become a symbol of his country’s political differences.

More than a sculpture, The Dove of Peacework of the deceased Colombian artist Fernando Boterowho died Friday, is both an emblem of the country’s recent history and a hostage to its deep political differences.
In September 2016, as Colombia was on the verge of signing a historic peace deal with the FARC guerrillas, once the most powerful rebel group in the Americas, Fernando Botero offered then-President Juan Manuel Santos (2010 -2018), the bronze sculpture approximately 70 centimeters high.

Watch the videoColombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero dies aged 91

Characteristic of the style of the artist fond of voluptuous body shapes, the gironde dove is white with a golden beak. This is the second work offered by the painter-sculptor to the presidential palace, after the “Mother Superior» under the government of Belisario Betancur (1982-1986). For the artist born in 1932 it is a “gift to my country to express my support and solidarity with this process which will bring a future of hope and dreams“.

Symbol of freedom,The Dove of Peace» will find itself a prisoner of the polarization of the country invited to pronounce on the agreements concluded between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at the end of four years of bitter negotiations. “It’s a sculpture that will inspire millions of Colombians to say yes to ending the war», congratulated Juan Manuel Santos during a ceremony handing over the work.
But on October 2, the “No» narrowly wins at the polls. After some modifications to the initial text, the peace pact was signed in November of the same year.

The sculpture, like the agreement, has since been the subject of political controversy. “I don’t think that with this sculpture Botero’s idea was to take sides (for yes or no to the referendum) beyond supporting a peace process which is a necessity in Colombia», Declared to AFP Pilar Velilla, former director of the museum in Antioquia, Botero’s region of origin, and close to the artist who died at the age of 91.

With peace signed, President Santos, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, placed the sculpture prominently in the Casa de Nariño, where it would remain until mid-2018. In June of that year , the conservative Ivan Duque, who, as a parliamentarian, had supported the “No» in the referendum, wins the presidential vote.

And two weeks before his inauguration, the sculpture was moved from its pedestal, by decision of the Santos government, to be transferred to the national museum in order, it is said, to give it greater visibility.

In 2022, Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla, won the presidential election to become the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia. For his inauguration ceremony on August 7, the president-elect requests that “The dove of peace» and the sword of the national hero, Simon Bolivar, are symbolically at his side. But the night before the ceremony, the Duque government cited security reasons to refuse their provision.

Having become president, Gustavo Petro published a photo on his Instagram account on September 1 showing him standing next to the sculpture which returned to its original location, in the Gobelinos living room of the Casa de Nariño. “Put back in its place“, he wrote in the caption of the photo.

In February 2023, Medellin, Colombia’s second city and Botero’s birthplace, was one of the main epicenters of a right-wing mobilization against the Petro government. As the procession ped, local support for Gustavo Petro, candidate for mayor, stood alongside a replica of “The dove of peace», bouquet of flowers in hands. Under threats he had to hastily leave the place and the sculpture was thrown to the ground.
And Gustavo Petro had published that day on Twitter (now renamed X) a photo of the vandalized sculpture with the words: “What harm do art and peace do to them?»

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