BARRANQUILLA, Colombia (November 15, 2006) — Fans unveiled a six-ton statue of Colombian pop diva Shakira in this port city on Wednesday, hours before a festive benefit concert organized by its favorite daughter.
Proceeds from the show, part of Shakira’s worldwide Oral Fixation tour, will go to build an arts school for 1,800 children displaced by Colombia’s civil war.
Speaking with journalists, the visibly moved singer said arriving in her Caribbean hometown after months on the road felt like returning to her mother’s embrace.
“Barranquilla is the big breast that fed and nurtured me as a human being, a woman and an artist,” said the 28-year old performer, who dominated the 2006 Latin Grammys this month with five awards. “Returning is a chance to be with all the people from whom I learned and to pay homage to my roots.”
Earlier, at the stadium where Wednesday’s concert will be held, a cornet-led band, carnival dance troupe and 3,000 fans joined Shakira’s father for the unveiling of a 15-foot iron statue of her likeness made and donated by a German fan.
“It’s a great day for the people of Barranquilla,” said sculptor Dieter Patt. “I’ve never seen the city as moved or as happy as when the statue was unveiled.”
The hip-shaking international superstar will share the stage Wednesday night with several of her Colombian musical idols from the world of salsa and accordion-heavy cumbia and vallenato music, before a sold-out crowd of 40,000.
The concert is a fundraiser for Shakira’s decade-old foundation Pies Descalzos Spanish for “bare feet” which is building an English and Spanish bilingual school for the arts.
The school will be located in La Playa, a poor suburb of Barranquilla where 45 percent of the residents are minors and only about half of them attend school.
Opening in 2008, it will be the sixth school funded by Shakira to benefit victims of a half-century of conflict between leftist rebels, far-right militias and the Colombian military.
“Starting when I was 15, I’d go every Friday with schoolmates to teach children how to read,” said Shakira. “I never imagined those childhood emotions would one day give birth to such a significant project.”
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