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Tribute to human rights rests in library

Eastern has recently acquired an unusual yet extraordinary object. This mysterious item has been here for several weeks but has attracted very little attention.

This is due mostly to its location underneath the steps of the Harold Howard Center. What is it? It is a sculpture.

This sculpture was created in 1995 by artist and activist Kathleen Luchtan. It was donated to Eastern by David Bronkema, who directs Eastern’s international and urban development degree programs and who served for eight years as the program coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee work in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to interim Dean of Arts and Sciences Betsy Morgan, Bronkema had been looking for a school in the area to donate the statue to, and that is why he gave it to Eastern.

Morgan accepted the statue and promised to find a place to display it.

She said she feels that the statue was not only a marvelous piece of art but also a physical representation of our mission statement.

“It seems an appropriate piece of art for a school dedicated to faith, reason and justice,” Morgan said.

Upon hearing that the statue was going to be displayed on Eastern’s campus, Luchtan contacted Morgan.

“This sculpture is dedicated to the indigenous people of Guatemala who have been killed by government death squads as they struggled for freedom, justice and human rights,” Luchtan said in an email to Morgan. “The legacy of their courage, strength and hope lives on in the people who continue to work for an equal and humane society in Guatemala and around the world.”

Although the sculpture is unusual, there is a great deal of symbolism behind it.

“At the top of the sculpture sits the Quetzal, Guatemala’s symbol of freedom, a beautiful bird unable to live in captivity,” Luchtan told Morgan in the email. “The coconuts represent the people speaking, singing or crying out against oppression and grief. The pumice in the heart of the sculpture comes from the southern coast of Guatemala and represents a country and people who continue to strive toward justice despite the violence of fire. The birds’ skulls reflect the symbolism of the quetzal.”

According to Morgan, plans for the statue include moving it to the second floor of the library and placing an engraved bronze plaque on the wall beside it. This should take place over the summer.

Until then, the statue will remain where it is, and students are encouraged to visit it.

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