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Hand in the Desert

Selfie With Sam | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod, Animation

Look behind me, and behold a giant hand that stretches out from the ground itself! I’m at the Atacama Desert in Chile, and this is unbelievably cool.

Atacama Desert in Chile

Along the deserted Pan-American Highway, the monotony of the drive is instantly shattered on the appearance of this 11 meter hand protruding out of the sand. I was unaware of the existence of this monument, and my fellow travelers kept it that way. The result was total surprise and I took my time wondering about the origin of this seemingly alien yet human-looking hand that seemed to be coming out the sand.

Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal

After they had their fun at my bewildered expressions, my fellow travelers told me that this monument is a work of the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal (try getting that right on the first try). It was built in the 1980s and was financed by a local organization. I wondered what gave him the idea for such a sculpture and was told that the motion of hands rising from the ground is an obsession of his. In fact, they told me, there’s another giant-hand monument, called Monument to the Drowned, also by the same artist.

Mano del Desierto

The monument, though bizarre, is the artist’s way of expressing loneliness, sorrow and the gross injustice and human rights that Chileans faced in the past. Its exaggerated size also conveys human helplessness and vulnerability. Even its location is a take on the feelings of isolation and despair.

Looking back, this is one of the strangest and yet thought-provoking statues I’ve ever seen. Not to mention that it nicely breaks the monotony of a desert drive.