National Monument to the Guest-Workers
National Monument to the Guest-Workers
National Monument to the Guest-Workers

National Monument to the Guest-Workers 2010

Hans van Houwelingen and Mohammed Benzakour on their proposal:


[...] The first guest workers who arrived in the latter half of the 1950s to work and build a future in Rotterdam are now elderly or have passed away. Their offspring descendants call for recognition of guest working by the majority, and seek a way of showing appreciation for their forefathers. A monument is the most cultivated, cultured, and eloquent instrument visualizing these wishes; it is a tool in society's toolbox. The monument recognizes disparity and conveys a suggestion to think about it for a while. From a political viewpoint, on the other hand, a monument can be a device for maintaining the status quo and dispensing with the question, for the monument serves to advocate the cause instead. In the best case, a traditional monument placed here would say that it is unjust to exclude guest workers from the history of Rotterdam. Nonetheless, the hard working Dutchman as "the spirit of people in Rotterdam and the miracle of a modern city rising from the rubble" - would remain the sole protagonist of history.


This is exactly where the focus of our design lies. The monument we propose distrusts the rhetorical function of the traditional monument; it refuses to bolster a history that denies the role of the guest worker and it does not aim to be an emblem of an injustice. What it does do is to reexamine and memorialize history from a different perspective, to let history exist in a different frame of reference. [...]


Writer Mohammed Benzakour and Hans van Houwelingen were selected to design a monument for the guest worker. Their proposal was to have an existing sculpture by Naum Gabo refurbished by guest workers with thorough knowledge of restoration techniques. The sculpture from the reconstruction period would thus emerge as a phoenix from its ashes, while honouring the work of the migrants. Through their contribution to its restoration, the sculpture would becomes the actual monument for the guest worker.


Read the full proposal here.