The Gigantic Half-Interred Hand In The Atacama Desert

South America | | September 23, 2009 at 5:11 am


It appears as the outermost body part of a gigantic man secreted by a colossal sandstorm. In the inhospitable surroundings of the Atacama Desert in Chile, nearly seventy-five kilometres to the south side of the Antofagasta city, a weird and wonderful sighting grabs one’s attention. Out of nowhere is the sight of four outstretched fingers, a thumb and a small portion of the palm is seen rising out of the sands.

Propped against the cerulean skies, this spectacular gargantuan hand is evidently not made of flesh and blood. Dubbed as the ‘Mano de Desierto’ also candidly called the ‘Hand of the Desert’- this is the superlative work of art that never fails to draw one and all who happen to lay their eyes on it.

The sweat and blood of Chile based sculptor Mario Irarrázabal, this enormous figure soars to a humongous thirty-six feet up in the air with an iron and cement made bottom providing support. The sculpture was built at a height of more than three thousand feet rising above sea level on the practically arid flat terrain of the Atacama Desert – deemed the most parched-dry locales ever in the world. Still in spite of its seclusion and scorched setting, motor vehicles on a regular basis halt at this place and hoards of eager onlookers line up to soak in the magnificence of this desert piece of art. A definite halt for those touring along the Pan American Highway, from the time it was instated in the year 1992.

Atacama DesertThe brainchild behind this fine artwork, artist Mario Irarrázabal studied philosophy and art from the University of Notre Dame. He even completed theology from the Università Gregoriana Pontificia located in Rome following which he received training under the guidance of Germany-based sculptor, Otto Waldemar. His foremost exhibition in the year 1970 showcased the human form as a means to convey key themes like unfairness, solitude, sadness and torment. The amplified versions like those palpable in the ‘Hand of the Desert’ are observed to lay emphasis on human susceptibility and defencelessness.

One might ponder that such an immaculate work of art is the one and only sculpture of this kind and magnitude, but hands have been a regular theme in Mario Irarrázabal’s work. The artist’s earlier work named ‘Monumento al Ahogado’ or the ‘Monument to the Drowned’ concluded in 1982 has an analogous theme comprising of five fingers partly interred by sand located on a beach in Punta del Este – a famous resort town situated in Uruguay. Related themed sculptures were also crafted by Irarrázabal in 1987 and 1995 in places like Madrid and Venice respectively.

Nonetheless, in spite of these other works of art, the soaring hand of the Atacama Desert still aptly manages to preserve its own charisma, conceivably due to the desolate landscape on which it is propped.

Doodling at times tends to slander the magnificence of this gigantic sculpture, hence intermittently it needs to be cleaned up. Otherwise, the ‘Mano de Desierto’ is optimally preserved, and in most probability would continue to stay in this way for time immemorial.

This mysterious structure might well stand tall long after human civilization perishes. Who knows?

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