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Zambia joins worldwide Buddy Bear exhibition

When the Berlin couple Eva and Klaus Herlitz came up with “Buddy Bär Berlin Show” a display of colourfully painted bear sculptures in the streets of Berlin, Germany in 2001, they had no idea how great a phenomenon the bears would eventually become.

What started out as a local (Berlin) show has now grown into a global phenomenon. By 2002 the success of the bears was so overwhelming that they ended up catching the attention of the Federal Foreign Ministry of Germany and subsequently UNICEF.

Today they are called the United Buddy Bears, an art exhibition of bears that represents the member countries of the United Nations. The initial number was only 40 but today there are 142 bears, with Zambia joining the exhibition this year.

An artist from a different country painted each bear and artist and VAC chairman James Zimba painted Zambia’s bear a month ago.

The Zambian bear is complete with a coat of arms painted on its upper body, a xylophone on its belly, and the legs have Makishi and talking drum designs and the Mosi-Oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls) on its back. This was the artists interpretation of Zambia through its symbols, colours, traditional ceremonies and musical instruments.

“Each country sends one artist to paint three bears but only one is chosen to go on the exhibition’s world tour. This is the one that earns money through generous pledges towards the exhibition” said Zimba in an interview “all the money that is raised goes to UNICEF who in turn sends these proceeds to developing countries in order to improve their education systems. So Zambia will soon be a beneficiary of this project”

However the United Buddy Bears are not only a fundraising project, they are a lot of things. They are an exhibition; they are canvases to showcase the creativity, national pride and spirit of people from over 140 countries and most of all they are the symbol of global peace, tolerance and friendship.

And according to Zimba, Zambia’s participation in the United Buddy Bears exhibition has helped strengthen the already pleasant Zambia-Germany cultural exchange ties and has spawned yet another programme scheduled for next year.

“This project (Buddy Bears) has also consolidated a project which the German government would like us to do, a collaboration between Zambian and German artists. There is supposed to be an exhibition by Zambian artists in Germany scheduled for February next year, as I am speaking accommodation, work space and exhibition space have already been reserved,” said Zimba “They have requested us to identify ten artists to participate although in the end only three will travel to Germany. Then the German artists will be here in May to exhibit in Lusaka for five days, visiting schools and interacting with art students. Then they will go to Choma and Livingstone.”

The Buddy Bears have the admiration of all walks of life. When Jackie Chan was in Berlin filming Around the World in 80 Days, he discovered the bears; he learned that they were meant to carry an important message - a message that he too had been working hard to deliver-one of living together in harmony and peace. The actor is now an avid patron of the bears and a friend of the Herlitzs, the couple that started it all.

The bears exhibition has toured Berlin, Kitzbühel, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney it is currently in Vienna and may be in South Africa when the country hosts the 2010 World Cup.


© 2020 Buddy Bär Berlin GmbH
Eine Initiative von Eva und Dr. Klaus Herlitz

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