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The Picasso statue companion in Plaza de la Merced. F. Griñán
Famous statue of Picasso in Malaga square gets a new companion to prevent it being alone
Loneliness awareness

Famous statue of Picasso in Malaga square gets a new companion to prevent it being alone

The elderly man, coated in bronze, keeps the statue of the city-born painter company by sitting on a nearby bench, to draw attention to the loneliness of many pensioners

Francisco Griñán

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

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Japanese tourists met Picasso face to face and sat next to him to take a photo of the bronze statue of the city-born painter in Malaga's Plaza de la Merced. They didn't notice, but on a nearby bench there has been, since Tuesday this week, another statuesque person. He poses, still as a bird, in homage, according to a sign, to “the painter of 'Guernica' who has thousands of visitors every day. Many anonymous old people like me also need company".

The message of this character, who is coated in bronze, just like the real statue, is from the Harena foundation, a campaigning NGO for disadvantaged people in Ethiopia and the elderly in Malaga city. The campaign coincides with the Malaga film festival, to raise awareness and draw attention to the increasingly common social reality of neglected elderly people.

In Malaga province alone, around 75,000 elderly people live alone, the foundation said. "This is the reality and there are more and more of them, especially after the pandemic," explained Victoria Martín, a volunteer with the NGO, who keeps the new statue company.

The statue of Picasso in the foreground, with the new companion on a neighbouring bench.
The statue of Picasso in the foreground, with the new companion on a neighbouring bench. F. Griñán

In addition to taking a photo with the statue of this elderly person and uploading it to social media with the hashtags #notequedesdepiedra (#nottobeleftasstone) and #vivirsinsoledad (#livingalone), the Harena foundation also encourages people to volunteer with the organisation to extend the support network, which needs more and more people. "We are all volunteers in the foundation and we also work in homes and hospitals," explained Martín, who added that "it is not only Picasso who deserves our attention".

The initiative, which completes the activities of the Harena Foundation in the Solidarity Space of the Malaga Festival installed in Plaza de la Merced, attracted the attention of everyone who passed by, as the new companion of the previously solitary bronze Picasso aroused curiosity. It has also sparked ideas for a new campaign.

"The truth is that they could have put up a statue of a woman,” one visitor said, whose proposal was taken up by Harena volunteers while they took a photo of her with their mobile phone for her to upload on social media.

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