Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bosnian town erects world's first Bruce Lee statue

MOSTAR: Bosnia's southern town of Mostar unveiled the world's first statue of kung fu legend Bruce Lee on Saturday, paying homage to a childhood hero of all its divided ethnic groups.

The life-size 1.68 metre (5ft 7in) bronze statue is situated in Mostar's central park, close to the former front line of Bosnia's 1992-95 civil war. A decade after the conflict, Mostar's Muslim and Croat inhabitants remain deeply split.

Unveiled by its initiators, Veselin Gatalo and Nino Raspudic of Mostar's Urban Movement, the statue portrays the Chinese-American actor, who died 32 years ago, in a typical defensive fighting position.

"This does not mean that Bruce Lee will unite us, because people are different and cannot be united and we will always be Muslims, Serbs or Croats," Gatalo said. "But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."

Gatalo has said Lee – a hero to teenagers all over Bosnia in the 1970s and 1980s – epitomised justice, mastery and honesty, virtues the town had badly missed.

The statue shows Lee facing north, so that Muslims in the eastern part of Mostar and Croats in its western half do not see him as poised for a fight with them. Croatia is in the south.

The ceremony on a rainy autumn day was attended by dozens of people and the ambassadors of China and Germany, both of which helped the project. They watched a display of martial arts by Bosnian youths.

Hong Kong, where Lee grew up, will unveil its own statue of the martial arts master on what would be his 65th birthday on Sunday at a ceremony attended by his widow Linda.

Lee was born in San Francisco and shot to fame with a series of martial arts movies, staring with "Enter the Dragon" in 1973. He died aged 32 from swelling on the brain.

Mostar's most famous symbol – a 16th century bridge which the Bosnian Croat artillery destroyed in 1993 during some of the fiercest battles of the war – was rebuilt last year but unification and reconciliation in the town have been slow.

Raspudic said the statue would help Mostar find a new association. "It's no longer a black hole," he said.

It took Gatalo and Raspudic, both ethnic Croats, more than two years to realise their idea for a statue of Lee, the town's authorities having finally granted permission in September.


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11:49 AM  

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