The Colombian coastal city of Barranquilla this week revealed a 21-foot-tall tribute to one of the country’s most famous cultural exports: Shakira.
“A heart that composes, hips that don’t lie, an unmatched talent, a voice that moves the masses and bare feet that march for the good of children and humanity,” reads the plaque under the statue.
“I am honored and moved by this incredible recognition in my Barranquilla, the city where I was born,” Shakira said in a statement. “Every barranquillero and barranquillera are my brothers and sisters and the inspiration of my life since my childhood.”
The statue’s sculptor, Yino Márquez, said he was happy with the way the sculpture was received by the public, Shakira and her family after its unveiling on Tuesday. The singer’s mother, he said, told him that God would bless her hands for being such a good sculptor.
“Shakira herself called me and told me that I had captured her essence very well in the sculpture. That her son saw the sculpture and said it’s the most beautiful sculpture he’s ever seen,” Mr. Márquez said.
The 52-year-old artist said he had been working on sculptures since he was 16. He has created large statues for other Colombian cities and is academic coordinator at the public art academy of Barranquilla.
In June, Barranquilla Mayor Jaime Pumarejo called him to let him know that he was a candidate to create a sculpture of Shakira that the city wanted to erect on the waterfront. He found out he had been chosen about a month later, when the mayor announced it to the public.
Mr. Pumarejo said that about a year ago, he began thinking about how to honor significant Barranquilla figures as a way to increase tourism and serve as a role model for young people. City officials decided on a statue representing Barranquilla’s coat of arms and one of Shakira, who the mayor said was on board with the idea.
Together, the two statues cost about 700 million Colombian pesos, or $180,000, he said.
“It was a monumental task,” he said. But he added that he was more than satisfied with the results. “I think in the end it’s a lot more than we expected.”
Shakira, 46, who now lives mostly in Miami, was born in Barranquilla, a port city of 1.2 million people and long home to many Colombian-Lebanese families like hers.
Even though he lives abroad and tours, he has maintained a close relationship with the city. He returns to visit us several times a year, has funded several schools and founded a foundation that works to improve early childhood education in Colombia.
“Among the Syrian-Lebanese dances mixed with the flavors of the Caribbean that are embodied in her hips, in the way she dances, they show a Barranquilla of migrants, a Barranquilla open to the world, to integration and diversity,” said Pumarejo. “They also show a woman who dared and succeeded.”
The statue, which took five months to complete, shows Shakira wearing a brown dress performing her famous belly dance. Mr. Márquez first modeled it in clay, then made a mold out of silicone and fiberglass, and finally cast it in bronze.
The end of the skirt, made of aluminum, symbolizes the waves of the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River, Mr. Márquez explained. He added that his raised arms will eventually hold a light that will turn on at night.
Mr. Márquez said he first met Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, when she was about 15 and starting to gain recognition as an artist in Colombia. Some of her classmates at art school, she recalls, helped her with set design.
“I just saw her walking down the halls and didn’t pay much attention at the time,” he said. Over time she came to admire his hard work and her success.
“Shakira is a symbol of commitment, discipline and progress,” he said. “For me she is a fighter.”
When he accepted the task of sculpting her image, she said she was heavily involved in the process and came to Barranquilla to meet him in person so he could make the sculpture as accurate as possible.
“I found a more affable and kind person than I imagined and with a great laugh and a smile,” he said.
A day after the statue’s unveiling, tourists from across the country had already gathered around Barranquilla’s waterfront to see the new landmark and take selfies. Many praised the sculpture’s accuracy and its significance to Colombians.
“I’ve always loved her, but especially since she insulted Piqué,” said Cindy Avila, a 33-year-old content creator from the northern city of Sincelejo, referring to her ex-husband, Gerard Piqué. “We all grew up admiring her, wanting to dance, wanting to dress like her.”
María Paula Giraldo, a 54-year-old ceramist from Bogotá, the capital, said the statue “makes us feel very proud to be Colombian. She also represents an icon, a woman who has done so much for Colombia, “she said. “I grew up with her and her music. She accompanied us on walks, parties and dances. ”
Amparo Pacheco, a 62-year-old Colombian businesswoman visiting from Spain, where she lives, said “the sculpture makes you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. She comes from this land.”
Ivonne Arroyo contributed reporting from Barranquilla.