Have you seen the Buddy Bears?
A message of world peace hit the Champs de Mars (the lawns extending out beyond Paris’ Eiffel Tower) in the form of Buddy Bears. These unique works of art – 140 in total – represent living in peace and harmony. There is one Buddy Bear for each of the 149 nations represented by the United Nations.
“We have to get to know each other better …
… it makes us understand one another better,
trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.”
These bears bear quite the passport too! They have traveled the globe, raising more that 1.9 million €uro for UNICEF and many local children’s relief oranisations through dontations and auctions (ref: United Buddy Bears site).
I first spotted them as I climbed the Eiffel Tower. From high above the Champs de Mars, I could see hundreds of people milling about, flashes going into overdrive as dusk settled in on the city. Curiosity took over – I had to check it out!
While imposing at 2 meters tall, the buddy bears are so incredibly friendly. They dwarfed many of the people (mostly kids and some slightly bigger kids!!) as they ran in for photos between the painted bears. I found myself quickly drawn into the excitement, reading the plaques that were associated with each bear, trying to find the Canadian bear, as well as those representing many of the countries I had visited and knew well. They are each incredible works of art…each one unique, the spirit of some cultures really evident in their artworks. The bears presented a feeling of unity, with arms raised, as a sign of optimism and togetherness!
The Buddy Bears made a spectacular appearance in Paris, the Eiffel Tower providing a stunning backdrop to the message and display. Paris was chosen to commemorate 25 years of town twinning with Berlin, the birthplace of the United Buddy Bears. This also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty underlining the good relationship between France and Germany and between their famous cities of Paris and Berlin.
The bears had had their start in Berlin where their popularity turned them into the international sensation that they are today. Now the bears travel the world, raising money for important charitable works. Since the first exhibition in Berlin, more than 30 million visitors world-wide have seen, photographed and rubbed the bellies of the United Buddy Bears. They have travelled to Berlin, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Sydney in the early years. In 2012, they have continued to roam…. Kuala Lumpar, New Delhi, St. Petersburg and Paris playing home to their messages.
An important aspect to the success of the Buddy Bear project was the design of each bear, and what it represented. They were each designed by artists from their respective countries and they demonstrate a diversity of cultures, history, and people. Icons such at Lady Liberty and the Sydney Harbour Bridge make it easy to pinpoint exact where some of the bears originate, but others cause visitors to stop and take pause…attention is brought to each country for their different works of art….all bears are equal in the United Buddy Bears.
The Message: The Buddy Bears stand together “hand in hand”, symbolising the future vision of a peaceful world. Each bear stands for the people of the different countries and their culture, yet not for political systems.
Charity: Buddy Bear activities and aid for children in need have formed an inseparable unit. To date, more than €1,9 Mio. (September 2012) have been raised through donations and auctions in aid of UNICEF and local children’s relief organisations.
The Buddy Bears shared these important messages along the Champ de Mars in Paris from October 12 – November 18th, 2012. The question that remains….where to next for the Buddy Bears?
Note: As Christmas approaches and I look back on all the travels I have done in 2012, I recognize that I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to travel and experience the world and so many different cultures. In an effort to give back, I have decided to donate $1 for every like on this post between today and Christmas Eve. The money will be donated to UNICEF to help those in need! Please feel free to share this message – I will tweet the donation on my twitter account @wheretogoam on Christmas Day!