‘Reconciliation’ by Josefina de Vasconcellos & ‘The Gleaner’ by John Knox:
‘Reconciliation’ is a sculpture by the artist Josefina de Vasconcellos. Originally created in 1977 and called ‘Reunion’, the sculpture shows a man and woman embracing each other across barbed wire.
Describing the inspiration for the piece, de Vasconcellos said: “The sculpture was originally conceived in the aftermath of the War. Europe was in shock, people were stunned. I read in a newspaper about a woman who crossed Europe on foot to find her husband, and I was so moved that I made the sculpture. Then I thought that it wasn’t only about the reunion of two people but hopefully a reunion of nations which had been fighting.”
In 1994 the sculpture was restored, renamed and unveiled for a second time on de Vasconcellos 90th birthday. In 1995 (to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War) bronze casts of the sculpture (as Reconciliation) were placed in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and in the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. To mark the opening of the rebuilt German Reichstag (Parliament building) in 1999, another cast was placed as part of the Berlin Wall memorial.
The Belfast version of the sculpture was presented by the Dean of Coventry Cathedral and Sir Richard Branson. It was officially unveiled in the grounds of Stormont Estate by First and Deputy Ministers David Trimble and Seamus Mallon in November 2000.
During the ceremony, representatives from Belfast, Coventry, Hiroshima and Berlin threw pebbles from their respective countries into the statue’s surrounding water garden. Stone boulders bear the names of those cities. Walkers often stop at this spot to rest and think.
The inscription on the sculpture reads: “These sculptures remind us that human dignity and love will triumph over disaster and bring us together in respect and peace.”
The Reconciliation Sculpture is a popular attraction with visitors and sits as the centre piece of a larger water feature. Unfortunately the water feature has deteriorated over the years and is in need of some major refurbishment work. Plans and drawings to include the sculpture are currently being developed.
‘The Gleaner’ by John Knox
‘The Gleaner’ sculpture by John Knox was originally shown as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain at Castlereagh and then moved to Stormont.
The sculpture shows a woman on a bended knee gathering, with the inscription: ‘Thrift is the gleaner behind all human effort’.
The sculpture hints at the quiet, female strength of a woman going about her business. This contrasts with the more high profile, masculine and extraverted image of the nearby statue of Carson.”*
*‘Stormont Estate: points of interest’ (Article): https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/stormont-estate-points-interest#toc-4
Map Showing ‘Storment Estate’, East Belfast